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08 April, 2016

Guide Dog 'test drive'

A young adult sitting on a concrete step with Guide Dog, Jade, sitting in front of her

Young adults learn about mobility, grooming and feeding

Young adults make many life-changing decisions about their future after completing school such as whether to go to university, travel or seek employment, and for those who are blind or vision impaired applying for a Guide Dog becomes an option.

Last week, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT gave three young adults, who currently use a long cane to avoid obstacles, an opportunity to 'test drive' walking with a Guide Dog in Newcastle.

"We wanted 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, Belinda Carroll said.

As well as trialing walking with a Guide Dog under the supervision of an experienced Guide Dog Orientation and Mobility Specialist, participants gained practical, hands-on experience with everyday tasks such as grooming, feeding and toileting a Guide Dog.

A Guide Dog handler also spoke to the group about her experience working with 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," Ms Carroll said.

Harrison speaks to a reporter from NBN News about walking with a Guide Dog for the first time

Nineteen-year-old Harrison Kirkwood, who is vision impaired and is considering a Guide Dog, said he was looking forward to taking part in the 'test drive' at the start of the day.

"I hope the day will give me a greater understanding of how a Guide Dog can positively impact my life and how this may open doors for me," he said.

Harrison, who finished high school last year, had limited but functional sight during his junior school years.

"I was able to negotiate my way around in a visual capacity and could see footpath lines, but as my schooling continued my sight deteriorated and during that process I became acquainted with the free services offered by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT," he said.

A Guide Dogs Orientation and Mobility Specialist tailored a long cane program to meet Harrison's lifestyle needs and delivered this at his home and in the school environment. "One of the main areas we focused on was road crossings," he said.

The young adults began their walk with a Guide Dog, which has cost more than $35,000 to breed raise and train, from the foreshore in Newcastle and make their way around the city to the Guide Dogs office.

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 about Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's services across the Hunter/Newcastle region, please call the Newcastle office on 4925 3066. To find out how you can help or to make a donation please visit or call 9412 9300.