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22 September, 2015

In the field for awareness

A woman walking with a Guide Dog, picture taken from waist down

Residents living in southern NSW having trouble getting around due to vision loss, or those who know someone who is, are invited to drop by the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT stand at the Henty Field Days from September 22 to 24.

As the leading provider of Guide Dogs and orientation and mobility services that enable people who are blind or vision impaired to get around their communities safety, the organisation is attending the field days to raise awareness of its free local services. There will also be information on how the community can provide much-needed support.

"The demand for Guide Dogs continues to grow due to increasing vision loss," said Katrine Mooney, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Community Liaison officer, who is attending the field days with Ambassador dog Andy, a blonde Labrador.

"But while we're known for our Guide Dogs and puppies, we're also attending the field days to highlight our most common program, which is teaching people valuable skills to help them safely move around their environment, using a range of mobility aids and electronic devices," she said.

There are an estimated 280,000 Australians with uncorrectable vision loss (in 2014), 100,000 of whom live in NSW and the ACT and these figures are predicted to increase by more than 20% by 2020.

"A person doesn't have to be totally blind to receive assistance - whether you're losing your sight due to Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma or another condition or injury, we can help you to understand your vision loss and provide practical advice on how to maintain your independence so you can continue to get around safely and confidently," said Ross Still, Guide Dogs' Southern NSW Regional Manager.

"We visit you, where and when it suits you and the service is free of charge," he said.

Over the past year Orientation & Mobility Instructors from Guide Dogs have provided almost 4,000 training programs to residents who have trouble getting around due to vision loss.

Statistics reveal more than a third of people with eye disorders live in country areas, with farms being a hotspot for eye injuries1.

Guide Dogs branded merchandise will also be on sale at the field days and staff will be available to discuss other ways the public can support the organisation, such as leaving a gift in their will.

"As we receive less than 2 per cent of our funding from the government, we rely on the public's generosity to provide our services free of charge, so ongoing support from the community will enable more people to enjoy the independence and confidence our services can provide," Mr Still said.