Braille Institute Coachella Valley has entered into a partnership with Guide Dogs of the Desert to help visually impaired individuals get the training needed to qualify for a guide dog, officials said Thursday.

As a part of the agreement, the Braille Institute will train their visually impaired students in needed skills to increase their independence and mobility, then refer them to the Guide Dogs of the Desert’s application process if they wish to apply for a dog, according to the institute’s Bob Bogard.

To qualify for a guide dog, applicants must demonstrate daily living skills such as calendaring, measuring, managing appointments and self-care, according to Bogard. The required skills include navigating one’s home and community using a white cane.

As part of the partnership, Guide Dogs of the Desert will also refer applicants lacking such skills to Braille Institute to be trained.

“We were thrilled when Braille Institute approached us with this wonderful solution,” said Dr. Jonathan Lorenzo Yorba, executive director of Guide Dogs of the Desert. “Working with a trained guide dog requires a set of learned mobility skills. Braille Institute already has the institutional expertise in training students with these skills, so partnering with them was an easy decision. We look forward to providing this elegant solution to our students.”

Applicants accepted into the Guide Dogs of the Desert program get matched with a guide dog and go through a 28-day in-residence training program to learn how to live and work with their new companion. All training is provided at no cost to the student, officials said.

All Braille Institute classes and workshops are free, with many classes also offered in Spanish. More information is available at BrailleInstitute.org/coachellavalley.

To learn more about Guide Dogs of the Desert, visit guidedogsofthedesert.org.

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