8 Million People Visually Impaired in China, But Only 200 Guide Dogs Available

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(Newswire.net — December 3, 2020) — A 11 years old, Yang Kang, lost his vision because of an uncommon type of eye cancer. But still, he views himself as one of the fortunate not many among China’s millions of visually impaired people— he has a guide canine.

Yang divides his time between living in Beijing together with his wife and running a piano studio in his hometown located in Tangshan, known as a sprawling industrial city somewhere in the range of 100 miles away. 

A high-speed train ride, two bus rides, and three subway transfers through frequently crowded stations— these are Yang’s weekly journey. It would have been unimaginable for most visually impaired Chinese, yet Yang is honored with a furry buddy that guides him at all times and every step of the way—Dick, a four-year-old Labrador. 

Guide canines like Dick are so uncommon in China that Yang held up five years to get one. As per state broadcaster CCTV, China just had around 200 canines in service as of April – which makes them considerably very rare compared to giant pandas. 

The service canines’ shortage is all the more striking considering the enormous number of individuals who might receive the benefit of their assistance. There are more than 17 million visually impaired in the country according to the estimation of The China Association of the Blind. As per the World Health Organization, 8,000,000 Chinese are totally visually impaired – generally equivalent to the entire populace of Switzerland. 

That is one guide canine for every 85,000 Chinese individuals who have partially or completely lost their vision. To compare, around one of every 50 blind and visually impaired individuals in the United States work with guide canines. In Britain, more than 1,000 guide canines are prepared and being trained every year for a sum of 36,000 individuals who are registered as visually impaired or partially sighted.

Dog breeds that often pass as guide dogs are Labrador, Golden retriever, and German shepherd. Some dogs can also guard its owners if given proper training, like Shiba Inu.

Dangerous Streets 

Exploring Chinese urban areas can be an overwhelming errand for the blind concerning overseeing all alone. According to the 2016 survey conducted by the China Information Accessibility Product Alliance, it has found that 30% of the nation’s visually impaired only seldom leave their homes; just one of every four regularly go outside without anyone companion, with the rest shepherded by their family and loved ones. 

Before Dick came along, Yang shared that he needed to depend on his white cane to get around – however, he said it was dangerous and difficult to go across the multi-lane interstates and explore the various pedestrian over passages that make up the Chinese capital without help from anyone else. 

He shared that he was in constant fear and the most frightening thing is that he has no clue about what the street ahead like. 

While much advancement has been made lately, Chinese urban areas are still a long way from disabled-friendly. In fact, even in Beijing, accessibility is deficient in numerous places – for example, not all pedestrian crossings have discernible traffic lights for the visually impaired, according to Yang.