Saudi Arabia and Seeing Eye Dogs

I have observed since living in Saudi Arabia seeing a number of blind or vision impaired Saudis. Most of them get around with the use of a walking stick. I have yet to see (in my experience) a Saudi using a seeing eye dog for assistance. I also attempted to find statistics on the number of blind individuals in Saudi Arabia but at least in English, this information was sketchy. However my search efforts did lead me to a page identifying some organizations which assist the blind and vision impaired:

General Secretariat for Special Education
Department of Education of the Visually Handicapped
PO Box 3465 Riyadh, 11471, Saudi Arabia.
Contact person: Dr. Saleh Al.Muhanna, Director
Tel: +966 1 488 2917
Fax: +966 1 488 0308
[email protected]
Activities: The Department is responsible for planning, implementation and supervision of the education of blind and visually impaired people throughout Saudi Arabia. These services include residential, day-time, classes in mainstream schools and integrated programmes. The supporting services include Braille press, talking books library and an educational materials production workshop.
Last updated: 08/02/2006

Ibn Um Maktoum Centre of the Handicapped Students
King Saud University, PO Box 5193, Riyadh, 11422, Saudi Arabia.
Tel: +966 1 467 5584
Fax: +966 1 283 2483
Activities: This centre was first initiated to serve the blind students at King Saud University, then its services expanded to reach all the handicaped students in the University. The centre organizes all the activities and services directed to the handicapped students, and helps them solve all personal or group problems. The centre participates in most local, national or universal activities and meetings.
Last updated: 04/12/2006

Rehabilitation Society for Disabled Persons, Eastern Province
PO Box 9119, Damman, 31431, Saudi Arabia.
Tel: +966 3 842 5340
Fax: +966 3 842 5340
Activities: A charity organization financed mainly by the business community, it runs a community-based rehabilitation program, vocational training centre, sports program, screening program and artificial aids for physically and mentally disabled people and for people who are visually impaired or deaf/blind.
Last updated: 04/12/2006

Given that the data was last updated in 2006 I can only hope that it remains current today.

With obtaining little information about the blind in Saudi Arabia I then turned my search over to information about seeing eye dogs in Saudi Arabia. The prospects do not look promising as according to the International Guide Dog Registration Web Page there is no information for Saudi Arabia. In fact, if one wishes to ship a dog into Saudi Arabia, it will only be allowed if it is classified as either a watch dog, hunting dog, seeing-eye dog or a ‘hearing’ dog for a deaf person.

This information and lack of visual confirmation leads me to believe that seeing eye dogs are not yet a part of the Saudi culture for assistance to the blind. I am venturing that a major reason for this is due to the fact that many in the muslim world view dogs as “haram” meaning unclean and forbidden. So no doubt before providing seeing eye dogs to blind individuals in the Kingdom, many cultural and traditional barriers must first be overcome.

I also found it interesting while doing my searches to find multiple references the world over of muslim taxi drivers refusing to transport blind passengers with a seeing eye dog.


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