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China lags behind west in guide dogs for the blind

BU News Service

6th December 2020

China lags behind west in guide dogs for the blind

6th December, 2020

By Bilin Lin

BU News Service

As the Chinese economy has grown into the second largest in the world, the country lags far behind in another marker – the availability of guide dogs for the blind.

There are less than 300 guide dogs in China for 17,300,000 visually-impaired people, leaving less than 0.001% of people with access to a guide dog, according to the Zhengzhou Love Guide Dog Service Center, a guide dog training school.

This compares to the United States where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 1.02 million blind people. According to Guiding Eyes for the Blind there are about 10,000 guide dogs for the blind. That means about 1% blind people have guide dogs – 1000 times the ratio of China.

Other places have varying rates:

  • The United Kingdom. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association says there are currently 5,000 active guide dogs for 2 million living with sight loss – a rate of 0.25%.

  • Germany. According to a recent article in Die Zeit’s there are 180,000 blind people in Germany, and 2,700 guide dogs in service, meaning the 1.5 percent of the blind have guide dogs.

  • Japan has 909 guide dogs with 320,000 registered blind people as of 2020, according to The Japan Guide Dog Association. That means 0.28% of blind people own a guide dog.

  • Taiwan. Data from the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting, and Statistics of Taiwan shows Taiwan has less than 50 guide dogs for 60,000 visually impaired people as of 2013, leaving 0.08% with access to a guide dog.

Asia is steps behind the western world in guide dog training. According to the International Guide Dog Federation (I.G.D.F.), only five countries and regions have I.G.D.F. accredited members, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea.

Guide dogs are not yet widely accepted in China, despite a rapid increase in people owning pets. According to Frost & Sullivan, a market research company, pet owners represented 16% of china’s population in 2013. By 2018 it was up to 22%.

Yet some people find guide dogs unacceptable in public places.

On April 26, a traffic police officer in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province, tested the system by posing as a blind person. She was barred from boarding a bus even though she told the driver she was blind and needed her guide dog, Taobao.

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