Amit Patel, a 37-year-old former doctor, lost his vision in 2012 due to a condition called keratoconus which changes the shape of the cornea. After six failed transplants, he’s adjusting to life with blindness.
Amit relies on his guide dog, Kika, to help him navigate the busy streets of London, UK, where he lives.
— Vanessa Feltz (@VanessaOnAir) January 6, 2017
Sadly, Amit and Kika come up against a lot of inconsiderate and rude people, who use “being in a rush” as an excuse for outright abuse.
“People barge me out of the way, Kika gets abused, hit with umbrellas, bags,” he explained.
When Amit gets home, his wife Seema reviews the video to see if people have acted deliberately, and then shares videos and pictures on Kika’s Twitter account to raise awareness.
Another problem is people trying to pet Kika.
“People distract Kika, try to be funny, or bump her. Some parents don’t care and let their kids scream at her or pet her. I have to tell them she’s working and ask if they can wait until we’re on the train.”
— Kika 🇬🇧 (@Kika_GuideDog) January 2, 2017
So Amit strapped a GoPro to Kika’s head to capture how people treat them when they’re in public, and hopefully raise awareness of the challenges blind people face daily.
“I had my 2-month old baby on my chest, Kika on the left side blocking the escalator,” remembers Amit, “A lady came running behind us. I told her I couldn’t walk up the escalator because of my dog. She had a go at me, saying she was going to miss the train because of my dog.”
“It’s difficult enough to travel across London,” says Amit, “Imagine with eyes shut, no useful vision at all. One thing I’ve found, being recently blind, is the loneliness.”
“I rely on Kika and on hearing. But I always try to leave the house with a smile on my face.”
Being well behaved as my little bro holds my lead 😀🙈 pic.twitter.com/Yv2ckLBcDg
— Kika 🇬🇧 (@Kika_GuideDog) December 17, 2016
Although Amit insists 99% of people he meets are perfectly friendly and helpful.
“Once I got off at the wrong station and Kika got lost. A guy saw me from a distance and walked over to me, touched me on the shoulder and asked if I needed help. He took me all the way to the right station.”
— Kika 🇬🇧 (@Kika_GuideDog) September 18, 2016
Amit just hopes people can watch Kika’s GoPro footage and understand how hard living with blindness can be, as well as realizing how much he relies on Kika for both companionship and independence.
“It’s embarrassing shouting around for assistance,” Amit admits, “I’m just a Londoner who wants to blend in with the environment, I don’t want to cause attention.”
You can watch the footage of Amit’s journey with Kika below.
— Kika (@Kika_GuideDog) August 8, 2016
You can keep up with Amit and Kika on Twitter.