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27 April, 2015

Guide Dog test drive in Armidale

Tayla 'test driving' a Guide Dog for the first time

An incredible opportunity arose this week when Guide Dogs NSW/ACT ran a 'Guide Dog test drive' activity in the Northern NSW town of Armidale. Five individuals with vision impairment who currently use a long cane were able to 'test drive' a Guide Dog to help them understand the benefits and responsibilities of having a Guide Dog.

One of these people was Tayla Fitton, a student at the University of New England, who was born blind and recognises the enhanced independence Guide Dogs can provide.

"The cane collides with all sorts of obstacles, and I found that walking with the Guide Dog you didn't have that," says Ms Fitton.

While providing participants the chance to see if this unique mode of mobility would suit their lifestyle, it was also an opportunity to further educate the public and raise awareness about Guide Dog discrimination.

Northern NSW Regional Manager for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Jeremy Hill said, "It's hard to believe that in this day and age, people with a disability are discriminated against, but it happens regularly to Guide Dog users, with a common issue being refused entry to a restaurant or cafe," said Mr Hill.

"It's a crime to refuse entry to someone because of their Guide Dog according to the NSW Companion Animals Act, which have been in place for more than 30 years.

"Through raising awareness of this issue, we hope that discrimination will end. If the five people who are trialling a Guide Dog decide to apply for one, we hope their journey with a Guide Dog will be discrimination free."

Local papers and television stations were there to cover the story and spread the word about the value of Guide Dogs in enhancing mobility and independence as well as raising awareness to end Guide Dog discrimination.

Watch Prime7 TV's excellent coverage of Tayla Fitton 'test driving' a Guide Dog for the first time.

Check out the article in the Armidale Express Dog power is harness in Armidale.