I've been fascinated by working dogs since I was a tween. I don't have that much personal experience with them, but I have read countless autobiographies of people who have used assistance dogs for various disabilities and I know they can literally transform a person's life. For a disabled person, having the ability to perform daily tasks without having to depend on another human can be empowering and liberating.
I wanted to give to an assistance dog training group, but I didn't have any idea where to start. I saw a mention of NEADS (also known as Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans) on some blog and liked what I saw when I checked out their web page. They also got a great rating on Charity Navigator so that was enough to bump them to the top of my donations list.
One of the things I most like about this organization is that they are not only providing assistance dogs that change the lives of their caregivers, but they are also changing the lives of their trainers. Most of these dogs are trained by inmates at correctional facilities. These programs improve the life skills of the inmates and allow them an opportunity to give back to the community. The dogs get the benefit of intensive training that ensures they can graduate to working status as quickly as possible. In addition, some of their dogs are rescued from shelters and so may be saved from euthanasia. The disabled client gets a new loving companion and well-trained assistant. It's a win-win-win situation.