The Guide Dog That Spies on People Who Ignore its Owner

The Guide Dog That Spies on People Who Ignore its Owner
January 10 13:37 2017 Print This Article

(BBC) – Unable to see the world around him, Amit Patel fitted his guide dog with a camera and set about recording evidence of the discrimination he faced but could not see. By Beth Rose

“The city is a scary place. It’s like someone put you in the middle of Trafalgar Square, turned you in a circle and said ‘find your way home’.”

That is Amit Patel’s new reality after he lost his sight unexpectedly in 2012, 18 months after he got married.

He now relies on guide dog Kika to get him around the once familiar streets of London.

But the footage captured by his canine guide hasn’t always shown a city willing to help him.

“The video came out of necessity,” Patel says. “Kika was getting hit by peoples’ bags and she was getting a lot of abuse. A woman stopped me one day and had a go at me for holding everyone up and said I should apologise, which was a real shock.”

The former doctor found a solution – attach a GoPro to Kika’s harness and film every journey. Patel’s wife, Seema, can then review the footage if it is felt there was something amiss about that day.

And when alterations were made to a London train station the camera came into its own.

“I asked for help and no one came,” Patel recounts. “The video shows lots of staff standing around me and this one guy looking over many times.

“Eventually when the staff member actually came to me the first thing he said was ‘sorry I didn’t see you’ and that really bugged me. He wouldn’t say that to someone who wasn’t visually impaired.

“It really makes me angry. It’s the fact that someone is fobbing me off.”

The footage was sent to Network Rail giving Patel the “valuable evidence” needed to lodge a formal complaint about an incident he couldn’t see.

“It made me feel vulnerable but having the footage was a godsend,” he says.

“Having the camera, having the voice, having the actual scenario played out in real time it actually gives me something to go back to the company and say ‘this is what happened to me and it needs to be sorted’.”

The video had an impact and Network Rail investigated before giving further training to its staff.

“While in this instance the event and associated disruption was not organised by or held at the station itself, we do recognise that the station can be a complicated place to navigate,” a spokesman says.

“That is why we have hired many extra staff to look after passengers.”

For newly blind Patel, standing alone for several minutes can feel like hours.

“One of the things I noticed with losing my sight is how lonely it is. If I’m travelling by public transport I will be the scared little boy sat in the corner. You can’t listen to music because you’re listening out for dangers or to station announcements.”

Patel says it is only since he lost his sight that he has become aware of the discrimination visually impaired people can face.

See the full article and additional images and video HERE