Five people who are blind or vision impaired will experience walking with a Guide Dog at the first ever Guide Dog ‘test drive’ in Tweed Heads on Tuesday.
The day aims to give participants, who currently use a long cane to move around safely and independently, an opportunity to find out if the unique mode of mobility offered by a Guide Dog will suit their lifestyles.
“We want to provide our young adult clients with the chance to find out more about Guide Dog mobility, the responsibilities associated with having a dog, and how to apply for one, should they desire to do so,” Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Regional Manager, Jeremy Hill said.
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As well as trialing walking with a Guide Dog under the supervision of an experienced Guide Dog Orientation and Mobility Specialist, participants will gain practical, hands-on experience with everyday tasks such as grooming, feeding and toileting a Guide Dog.
“As the leading provider of Guide Dogs and other services that enable people who have impaired vision to get around their communities safely and independently, it is important to let our clients know about the options available to them,” Mr Hill said. “Similar activities in Sydney have become very popular, so we decided to offer it to people living in regional areas. We have run similar events in Armidale and Coffs Harbour with great success.”
Tweed Heads resident, Dudley Kelso, who uses a short white cane when travelling to unfamiliar places, said he was looking forward to the ‘test drive’. Dudley, whose left eye is artificial and his right is paralyzed as a result of an operation to remove a tumour, said he will probably lose the small amount of remaining vision he has. “The sight I do have is very blurry, so I am looking at potentially getting a Guide Dog,” he said.
A Guide Dogs Orientation and Mobility Specialist tailored a long cane program to meet Dudley’s lifestyle needs and delivered this at his home and in the places he travels to in Tweed Heads.
The participants will begin their walk with a Guide Dog, which has cost more than $35,000 to breed raise and train, at the Tweed Heads Bowls Club.
Guide Dogs have been trained to ignore distractions such as food and noise, navigate obstacles, travel on public transport, find landmarks such as bus stops, and cross the road safely.
Each year Guide Dogs highly trained Orientation and Mobility Specialists work with around 4,000 people of all ages to help them achieve their mobility goals.
To find out more, or to make a donation visit www.guidedogs.com.au.