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12 July, 2017

Children with vision loss learn important train safety skills

These school holidays Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is holding a free program designed to provide children with vision impairment with the skills to safely catch public transport.

Focusing on safe train travel skills, the two-day course aims to teach children strategies to increase their confidence so that they will one day be able to travel independently. Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Orientation and Mobility Specialists will work with Sydney Trains staff at Central Station to teach 14 children with sight loss how to get safely on and off a train, the location of help points and how to communicate with the guard.

“This program will give the children the knowledge and skills to catch public transport independently. They also have the opportunity to meet other children who also have a vision impairment of similar age,” Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Jennifer Jedovnicky said.

“We want to prepare these children as much as possible for their future and being able to confidently access public transport as it is crucial for their independence as they travel to school, university or work.”

The children will also experience travelling on different train types, learn what to listen out for when approaching the station they wish to alight from and how to ask train staff for assistance. As a special treat, they will also receive access to a behind-the-scenes tour of disused tunnels.

Zara learns to safely alight from the train onto the platform

Eleven-year-old Zara Perry has attended many Guide Dogs mobility training days and enjoys being able to brush up on her travelling skills. Zara, whose vision is impaired due to a rare condition called Oculocutaneous albinism, uses a long cane to get around safely and has worked with Guide Dogs specialists since she was three-years-old.

“I really love my school holidays training days because they are always a great adventure. I get to meet other kids like me and also learn something new. I have so much fun,” Miss Perry said.

“When I get older I want to be able to ride on trains and travel anywhere I want to go all by myself.”

Brianna and Mikeala sit next to each other on the train

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has worked closely with Transport NSW to educate and train staff on how best to assist a passenger with vision loss, such as how to guide a person if they ask for assistance.  

“We are very pleased to collaborate closely with Transport NSW and to have their support for our school holiday programs as well as training staff on how to assist passengers who are blind or vision impaired,” Ms Jedovnicky said.

“Our Community Education team works closely with Transport NSW to provide inductions to new staff.”

While best known for its work in breeding and training Guide Dogs, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is the leading provider of vision loss services, such as orientation programs, that enable people with vision impairment to get around their communities safely and independently.

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