Ivana Merryman Boncori (Committee Chair)
Guide Dog Consultant, GDMI & Puppy Raising Supervisor
Danish Association of the Blind
Ivana Merryman Boncori started working in the Guide Dog field in 1998 in Slovakia, when she trained her first Guide Dog after 4 years of puppy-raising for the local Guide Dog school. In 2001 she won the Amsden Scholarship and spent one year at Guide Dogs Victoria (GDV) achieving a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI) qualification.
The experience of learning from experts at GDV allowed her to discover the professionalism and client focus in the work of a GDMI and also opened her way to the international guide dog world. Since then, she has been passionate about paying forward, not only by helping to develop her local school, according to the best professional practices, but also by supporting and mentoring developing schools abroad, in Poland and Malta.
In 2014 Ivana joined the IGDF’s Development Committee (DC). She has been a regular attendee and presenter at the IGDF conferences and has also been involved in development activities outside DC’s scope, for example in supporting the dissemination of knowledge and promoting collaboration and best practices in guide dog breeding and dog assessment under the leadership of top experts in the field.
Ivana has been lucky to work with small organizations during her career, which allowed her to gain experience from all technical parts of a guide dog program; from development of breeding programs and collaboration in breeding, through work with puppy-raisers and development of puppy-raising programs, guide dog training and provision of client services, to development of GDMI curricula and staff education. During five years of her life in Rome, Italy, she worked as an Orientation and Mobility Instructor. She has a PhD in Civil Engineering and for two years she worked as a specialist for barrier-free design at the Slovak Blind and Partially Sighted Union. Currently she lives in Copenhagen and works for the Danish Association of the Blind as a Guide Dog Consultant, GDMI and Puppy Raising Supervisor.
Manager Puppy Development, National Programs
Jane was appointed to the Development Committee in 2021.
Senior Consultant for Special Projects
The Seeing Eye (USA)
Lukas Franck is a COMS and a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. He graduated from the State University of New York at New Paltz with a BA in Speech Pathology and Audiology. He began working at the Seeing Eye as an apprentice in 1978.
Leaving the Seeing Eye after eight years he attended Western Michigan University and earned a Masters in Orientation and Mobility in 1987. He re-joined the Seeing Eye’s staff shortly after completing his degree. In 1993 he became a ‘community instructor’, traveling full time across the United States and Canada working to enhance the working relationships between Seeing Eye graduates and their dogs. As a result of his experiences in this capacity he became interested in Environmental Access for people who are visually impaired.
He served as Chair of the Environmental Access Committee of Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) and is still active on that committee. He has worked with the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices to create language leading towards a United States Standard Accessible Pedestrian Signal and has worked to create and enhance communication and understanding between Orientation and Mobility Specialists, people who are blind or visually impaired, and traffic engineers.
Lukas is a past winner of the Orientation and Mobility Division’s Sandy Kronick Distinguished Service Award, and the American Foundation for the Blind’s Access Award. He is proudest however, of having twice received the Ethel Bender award from Guide Dog Users, Inc.
Currently Lukas is the Senior Consultant for Special Projects for the Seeing Eye. He is a former Assessor for the International Guide Dog Federation, and is currently on the Development Committee.
Julijana György Matešić
Training and Service Director
Hong Kong Guide Dogs Association
Julijana György Matešić has a DVM degree under the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Zagreb and has been a qualified Guide Dog and Mobility Instructor with 30 years of experience. She joined the guide dog movement in Croatia in 1991 and was part of a small group of enthusiasts who were dreaming and working hard to establish the first GD School in Croatia – Croatian Guide Dog and Mobility Association (CGDMA). She then became one of the first GDMI Cadets in Croatia and was also fortunate to be an apprentice under the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.
During her work in smaller organizations – CGDMA, and later in The Rehabilitation Centre Silver (Croatia) as a GDMI and Head of Training and Service Department, Julijana had the opportunity to experience the entirely of the Guide Dog Service. From breeding to retirement, from VIP’s first application and grieving to successor dog, each stage expanded her knowledge and insight. At the same time, she was actively involved in organizing and development of the organizations’ activities, including breeding, puppy raising, assistance dog training, record keeping, etc.
Julijana has always emphasized knowledge as a foundation for improvement and development. She was able to broaden that knowledge by visiting many GD Organizations around the world and applying her expertise in improving different aspects of the community. During her years of service, Julijana had the opportunity to meet and learn from the top experts within their respective field. But even then, Julijana felt that knowledge on an individual level was not enough. She realized while working with smaller or isolated schools, that their resources were limited and improvements just by knowledge itself would not suffice. Since then, she has focused her work on developing partnerships and collaborations between different Schools and Organizations with a goal to improve the overall quality of Guide Dogs, and services for VIP Clients.
Currently Julijana is the Training and Service Director in Hong Kong Guide Dogs Association (HKGDA). She is on ASIA Guide Dog Breeding Network’s (AGBN) Working Level Committee, and (former) Assessor for the International Guide Dog Federation.
Julijana was appointed to the Development Committee in 2021.
Hellen Keller Guide Dog School
Fabiano graduated in the transformation industry, as a designer, mechanical and electronic technician. He transformed his life in 1998 when he decided to work with dogs. He built one of the largest service centres in the canine area in the state where he lived in Brazil.
After 8 years in this field of work, in 2006 he was invited to assist in the reopening of Helen Keller’s Guide Dog services, which had ended its activities. Trained in 2008 as a guide dog trainer by Seeing Eye Dogs Australia, he returned to Brazil where he continued his apprenticeship as a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor under the supervision of his professor, Mr. Ian Cox. He implemented the dogs’ training and clients’ adaptation program entirely carried out by the school which, until then, was only carried out in partnership with foreign institutions. He implemented the genetic improvement program with the creation of an initially national program and later with the cooperation between schools, such as Guiding Eyes for the Blind New York. With this, they are currently helping other schools to improve their own genetic stocks.
In 2013, as technical manager of Helen Keller, he was responsible for the creation of the Brazilian federal government’s guide dog program. In 2017, he helped Helen Keller achieve IGDF member status, a dream pursued since 1998. He currently remain as Technical Manager of the Helen Keller Guide Dog School.
Fabiano was appointed to the Development Committee in 2021.
Purpose Dogs (Belgium)
Bob runs a small animal veterinary practice together with his wife Mieke, also a vet, in Belgium since 1987. He is a founding member of the Flemish Working Group on Ethology, from which he experienced the impact and importance of behavioural knowledge on pets and owners.
Bob also sat in the Order of Veterinary Surgeons, a council that is responsible for every legal and ethical aspect of the profession.
Bob will soon end his role as President of SAVAB-Flanders, which is the Small Animal Veterinary Association of Belgium/Flanders, which he chaired for eight years.
His biggest passion is of course guide dogs. In his first year of practice, more than 30 years ago, he was asked to provide free veterinary services and to help found a Guide School in Belgium. He was the Secretary to the Board, provided Veterinary Services to the School and was responsible for International contacts.
In 2017, Bob started a new challenging project with experienced engineers and veterinarians, specialized in orthopaedics, statistics, and genetics. This new “Purpose Dogs” project is a selective and well-thought-out breeding project, in order to provide high quality pups to several service dog schools, mainly but not exclusively, in Belgium. The project is strongly linked to the Veterinary faculty of the University of Ghent, Belgium.
Since 2013, Bob has been a member of the International Guide Dog Federation’s Development Committee. In this Committee, Bob shares his personal veterinary expertise, but more importantly, puts the guide dog community in direct contact with international experts from the veterinary profession as a whole.
Additional Needs Development Lead
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (UK)
Lee has worked for Guide Dogs UK for over 30 years, working as a guide dog mobility instructor before going on to manage various teams as supervisor and manager. Lee has a particular interest in working with people with additional disabilities and this led to him taking qualifications in British Sign Language and Deafblind Studies. He also enjoys working with other organisations to collaborate on different projects and starting in 2003, the first dual assistance/ guide dog was trained in the UK in partnership with Hearing Dogs UK. Over time, Lee was closely involved in progressing other similar dual dog partnerships. This included being involved with Guide Dogs UK’s first wheelchair guiding programme that commenced in 2009. Lee also enjoys meeting other people from around the world, sharing ideas and learning from others at IGDF conferences. He attended his first one in Warwick, UK in 2000 and has been to most of the IGDF conferences ever since. He later became an IGDF Assessor in 2010 and is now a member of the IGDF Development Committee.
Lee’s current role in Guide Dogs UK involves leading on the development of a range of services for people with additional needs. As a father of seven children and grandfather to three grandchildren, he enjoys spending time with his family, walking, cycling, and playing the guitar.