SAN RAFAEL, Calif.—Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) and American Printing House for the Blind (APH) ConnectCenter have announced a partnership to offer joint programming and career development programs for young adults who are blind or have low vision. The partnership marks the first time in the U.S. a leading educational organization in the blindness community has joined forces with a guide dog school to offer career programming for young adults considering the guide dog lifestyle, according to the organizations.

The inaugural collaboration is called Careers & Canine Connections, which is a weeklong immersive program for young adults aged 18 to 24 years. The program, scheduled for August 7-12, 2023, will be held on and around GDB’s Oregon campus. It offers a deep dive into career exploration and how guide dogs can fit into future employment opportunities for their handlers. Careers & Canine Connections was designed to help young adults overcome the unemployment and underemployment issue the blindness community has historically faced.

Participants will learn about new career options, practice interviewing techniques, explore the value of networking, and enjoy unique hands-on experience with guide dogs. Although it is not a guide dog training program, Careers & Canine Connections is tailored for young job seekers interested in exploring guide dog mobility.

“This is another wonderful partnership that we are happy to see come to fruition. It is very important that individuals who are blind or have low vision have access to learn about guide dogs, just as it is important for them to learn how to handle and maneuver applying for jobs and interviews,” said Paul Schroeder, APH vice president, impact & outreach. “This program allows participants to gain valuable mentorship and get unique hands-on experience that will last a lifetime.”

In recent years, GDB has expanded its services to engage more youth who are blind or have low vision. In addition to Careers & Canine Connections, GDB offers its K9 Buddy Program, which matches specially selected dogs to become pets and companions for individuals five years or older; Camp GDB, an annual camp for youth and young adults to learn more about the guide dog lifestyle; and Ready, Set, FORWARD, a series of virtual workshops for youth, families, and blindness professionals.

Careers & Canine Connections is free to participants who meet certain criteria. Applications are due on or before April 1, 2023. To learn more, click here.