Guide Dogs Motivational Speaker wins Access & Inclusion Award
Photo Credit: Baz Anderson
Hastings Point resident Bev Larsson, who abruptly lost her vision eight years ago due to bilateral optic nerve atrophy, was recently named the winner at the 2017 Tweed Shire Access and Inclusion Awards.
A former triple-certificated registered nurse and nurse manager with a particular concern for child and family health, Bev struggled to adapt to her radically changed circumstances after losing her sight. Two years later, her beautiful Guide Dog, Henry, entered her life.
“Henry transformed my life, giving me freedom and a newfound independence to support healing,” Bev recalls.
“He is clever and sensitive, and sometimes I feel as though he can read my mind, whether he is in or out of harness.
“We are a working partnership. Henry makes me feel a lot more confident and secure. We can go off the beaten track and I trust his judgement implicitly. Walking along the beach on our way home following yoga class, he protects me, anticipating and averting possible risks such as rogue waves, snakes, unchecked dogs or thoughtless people.
“He loves the calm and relaxed life at the beach and is also energised by city visits where he operates on high alert because of the additional levels of activity.
“Henry dons his working harness like a uniform. He is clever, sensitive and I am so grateful to have been gifted an amazing guide, protector and buddy. He has been my salvation.”
In tribute to the impact Henry has had on her life, Bev co-authored a children’s book 'Along Came Henry’ in order to educate people on how to behave around a working dog. The book is well received by educators and people of all ages as an educational tool, containing important messages regarding accessibility and disability. The book is dedicated to and has been endorsed by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.
As a Motivational Speaker for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, Bev Larsson won the overall prize at the 2017 Tweed Shire Access and Inclusion Awards for her ongoing work with primary schools.
"I'm extremely delighted to receive the award,” Ms Larsson said.
"It's been a fantastic experience touring around the shire, visiting primary schools and talking to the kids.”
Ms Larsson visits schools and other community groups with her Guide Dog Henry to provide a true-life account of what it is like to have sight loss but still live an amazing and inspiring, independent life.
"It's been absolutely fantastic having Henry in my life - the independence, the freedom - and it's motivated me to spread the word about the organisation,” she said.
"When we go to the schools it's a lot of fun. The kids really enjoy understanding more about his ability, his limitations and how we met.
"In that sense I hope I'm dispelling the myth about disability and bringing people closer to understanding that vision impairment is just something you learn to live with. It might limit your ability but it doesn't create too many barriers.”
To find out more or to book Bev to speak to your class, school, business or community group, please email speakers [at] guidedogs.com.au