Two members of the Atherton-based Manchester Mobility Team embarked on a race to raise awareness for National Guide Dog Week.
The Big Race saw two mobility aids - the long cane and the guide dog - go head to head against each other in Leigh’s Spinning Gate shopping centre to see which would reach the finish line at the end of the shopping centre first.
It was fascinating to learn about and experience the difference between using a long cane and walking with a guide dog.Abby Hollywood
Abby Hollywood, specialist family support officer for Blind Children UK, who is blind and an experienced long cane user, swapped her long cane for a dog.
This was quite remarkable in itself as Abby has a fear of dogs so has had to build up her confidence to be able to compete in the race.
She went up against Emma Allen-Taylor, engagement officer who used a long cane.
While Emma was familiar with walking with a guide dog in blindfold due to a previous career as a guide dog trainer, the long cane was completely alien to her, so both were way out of their comfort zones.
The countdown started, then both dog and cane set off followed by their novice participants. Instructors were close by to ensure that the pair remained safe at all times during the challenge.
It wasn’t long before the dog took the lead and Abby edged in to the front. The cane was left lagging behind as Emma navigated her way through the shopping centre and negotiated a couple of unexpected obstacles including a wheelchair. Abby whizzed to the finish line first claiming her victory. Although she was first past the post with a time of two minutes and seven seconds, Abby admitted that the feeling of not knowing exactly where she was, as she would have done with her cane was a little uncomfortable.
Abby said: “It was fascinating to learn about and experience the difference between using a long cane and walking with a guide dog. I can now see the pros and cons for both; for instance, I liked being able to move around more quickly with a dog, but missed the feeling of exploring my environment with the cane and being aware of things like changes in floor surface before they happened.”