Author's NDIS tips | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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21 March, 2016

Author's NDIS tips

Leonie Pye

Leonie shares her experience to assist others

Twelve months after becoming a participant of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Leonie Pye describes the new funding program as 'brilliant', although she does admit the application process was daunting.

With the NDIS set to roll out in large parts of Sydney in July this year, the Canberra-based author is keen to share her experience and reassure those who are blind or vision impaired about the process of applying for funding.

Mrs Pye, who is legally blind due to Retinitis Pigmentosa and early onset Macular Degeneration, sought the assistance of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT to explain the NDIS and provide support during the application and planning process.

As a registered NDIS service provider, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has provided assistance to residents aged 64 and under who are blind or vision impaired during the initial rollout of the NDIS in the Hunter, ACT and Nepean-Blue Mountains regions.

"To be honest when I went to my first NDIS information session, I left feeling very anxious," Mrs Pye said. "So I contacted Guide Dogs and organised a one-on-one meeting. Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Regional Manager, Patrick Shaddock, sat down with me for two hours and explained it all to me."

"This meeting was instrumental in my decision to move forward," Mrs Pye said. "I don't think I could have done it without the support of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT."

Mrs Pye has had a long association with Guide Dogs and first contacted the organisation for orientation and mobility training with a long cane more than 26 years ago.

In 2005, she received her first Guide Dog, Buffy, who she affectionately refers to as her "princess". Mrs Pye is currently working with her second Guide Dog, Franklin, who she was matched with in October 2012.

She said one of the more daunting aspects of the NDIS is goal setting and thinking about what you want your life to look like in 12 months. "It's a question that you don't often ask yourself," she said.

"If like me you can't answer this straight away, I would encourage you to start looking at the NDIS planning workbook with a Guide Dogs instructor or someone you trust," Mrs Pye said.

"Patrick asked me to write down some dot points about how the NDIS could help me and we went from there."

"My main piece of advice is to have someone, like an Orientation and Mobility Specialist from Guide Dogs, to assist with identifying and articulating your support needs before attending a planning meeting," she said.

Mrs Pye's plan includes funding for Franklin's food, pet insurance, veterinary treatment and grooming. Her plan also includes a transport allowance, cleaning and gardening assistance and provisions for adaptive technology.

"One of my goals was to continue visiting preschools with Franklin to speak about my journey and my first children's book, The Little Shell, which is about accepting the beauty of ourselves and others with all our differences and imperfections," she said.

"It is great transport is included in my plan so I can continue to speak to children about my book. The funds also help me get to medical appointments," she said.

With her NDIS plan review coming up later this year, Mrs Pye said she is no longer nervous about the process.

"After going through the initial funding application, I believe the NDIS is brilliant for people who are blind or vision impaired," she said.

Mr Shaddock encouraged anyone with a vision impairment who would like more information on how to best transition into the scheme to contact Guide Dogs NSW/ACT to discuss the wide range of options available.

"We can come to you for a one-on-one session and explain the process to you," he said.

"We're looking forward to continuing to work with the National Disability Insurance Agency and hoping our clients will continue to benefit from the assistance available under this significant advancement in the provision of disability support and services."

From July 1, 2016, the NDIS will begin to become available to those living in the Central Coast, Northern Sydney, South Western Sydney, Southern NSW and Western Sydney regions, along with the remaining populations in Hunter New England and Nepean-Blue Mountains.

In July 2017, residents in Illawarra Shoalhaven, Mid North Coast, Murrumbidgee, Northern NSW, Western NSW, Far West NSW, South Eastern Sydney and Sydney regions will be able to apply.

Mr Shaddock also stressed that for the many people who are blind or vision impaired who are not eligible for NDIS funding, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's services will continue to be provided at no cost.

Every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss, including nine who become blind.

For more information about Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's services visit

Tips for applying to become a participant in the NDIS scheme

  • Start thinking about your goals and aspirations now. Think about what your life is like, what is working, what isn't working and what you would like to change
  • Download the planning workbook from the NDIS website and work through it with someone you trust
  • Think outside the box. There may be new opportunities that you have not considered before. However, don't worry if it all feels like too much - the NDIA reports that people are getting more ambitious with subsequent plans
  • When you identify a support need, develop a good honest rationale for why it is reasonable and necessary (Guide Dogs can help you to do this - regardless of the type of support you need)
  • Plans can be changed and they only last a year. Don't worry if you don't get things exactly right on your first attempt
  • Closer to the roll-out in your area, ask for someone from Guide Dogs to deliver an individualised NDIS information session. This will ensure you get the most up-to-date, accurate and relevant information