Saturday, June 11, 2011

Guide Dog Users, Inc. launches new Web site to better inform blind people, educate general public

For Immediate Release from Guide Dog Users, Inc.:

SILVER SPRING, Md. -- On June 6, Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI), the largest organization of guide dog users in the world, launched a new and improved web site designed to meet members' needs for information about everything guide dog related and to effectively reach out to the growing community of people who, though not visually impaired themselves, are fascinated by the miraculous bond that develops between working dogs and their blind and visually impaired partners.

"Our web site features information about the issues that are important to people who choose to partner with guide dogs," says GDUI president, Becky Barnes, of Mount Kisco, NY, "Including information about current legislation and regulations that affect guide dog teams; updates from schools who breed and train dogs to guide, and teach blind and visually impaired students to travel safely and efficiently with their dogs; organizational news from GDUI; and advice from guide dog users about solving problems and working, playing, and living well with guide dogs."

The launch of culminates a year-long effort to improve and increase GDUI's online presence and to create a web site that maximizes accessibility for people who rely on specialized software to magnify or speak aloud the contents that appear on a computer or smart phone screen, while creating a visually informative and appealing environment for people who use their eyes to access the same information.

"GDUI has hosted a web site for many years," explains Web Site Taskforce manager, Ann Chiappetta of New Rochelle, NY, "But, as with so many sites that seemed to grow like Topsy, the orderliness and accuracy of information on the pages sometimes suffered when new items were added and older, outdated information did not disappear. There was so much on our site that was good and valuable, but it became increasingly more difficult for our members to find it. We have attempted to retain all that good and useful information while reorganizing and improving structural elements and accessibility."

Mike Golfo of Tarrytown, NY, who is Assistive Technology Coordinator for Vision Services in New York City, has taken on the additional challenge of serving as web master for

"Mike understands the unique challenges of navigating the internet with which people who cannot see routinely contend, and he is working with his first guide dog, a yellow Lab named Kaiser. Both of these circumstances make Mike an especially great choice as the person who will serve as GDUI's web master," says GDUI president Barnes.

Webtrax Studios/ Carol Simpson Productions, LLC, based in Oak Park, IL, was chosen by the GDUI board of directors to build the new site, because of their reputation for on-time, customized web design and their understanding of the accessibility needs of the organization's members. According to , WebTrax studio the new site relies upon a content management system that delivers a user friendly open source platform noted for accessibility and functionality.

The new site will allow members to use unique membership identification to log in and access MP3 files of GDUI's award-winning magazine, "PawTracks," which is published five times each year in several accessible formats; to post items of interest about local and national guide-dog related events on a new GDUI blog; to participate with others in online social networking opportunities, including FaceBook and Twitter; to share information about effective advocacy for the civil rights of people who travel with guide dogs; to purchase products that are especially practical for working teams; and to access the content of seminars and lectures that are featured each summer at GDUI's annual national conference and convention.

Visitors to will find many useful resources including travel tip sheets in English and Spanish; updated regulations that guarantee guide dog teams access to public accommodations, transportation, shopping, education, and more; as well as a guide dog school survey that allows consumers to compare the various training programs and accommodations offered by the dozen or so guide dog schools in the United States. Several existing e-mail discussion forums, which will migrate to the new web site by the end of the year, will continue to strengthen the ties that connect people who choose to partner with guide dogs no matter where they live and no matter their level of experience with guide dogs or coping with visual impairment and blindness.

Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI) is a not-for-profit organization that advocates for the rights of guide dog users everywhere. Drawing on the experiences and varied knowledge of its members, GDUI provides peer support, advocacy and information to the blind and visually impaired members of guide dog teams. In addition, GDUI works with public entities, private businesses and individuals to ensure that guide dog users enjoy the same rights to travel, employment, housing, and participation in all aspects of life that people without disabilities take for granted.

An affiliate of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) since 1972, GDUI is the largest consumer-driven organization of its kind in the world. With 19 state affiliates, and members from every region of the United States as well as several countries across the globe, GDUI works tirelessly to improve access for guide dog and service animal teams, to educate the public about the issues which are particularly important to people who rely on guide dogs, and to offer support, advice and information to members and friends. For further information visit