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08 June, 2017

Gulliver travels Northern NSW

Gulliver the giant fiberglass Guide Dog is towed behind a car along a country road

Gulliver, the world’s biggest Guide Dog, recently went on a road trip across Northern NSW to help spread an important message.  

Instead of the family dog with its head out the window enjoying the breeze, the team from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT towed Gulliver, the giant fiberglass Guide Dog, who is 4.3 metres tall and too large to fit inside the car.

Stopping in Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Tamworth and Tweed Heads, the Guide Dogs team reminded the public about the huge role the organisation plays in helping people who are blind or vision impaired to safely, confidently and independently negotiate their environments.

“Like Gulliver on his travels throughout the ACT and NSW, our instructors travel to wherever our services are required,” Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Regional Manager, Jeremy Hill said. 

“We come to you, wherever that may be – your home, your workplace, your school or university – helping you learn to find your way around your particular environment is a top priority.”

Tamworth resident Phillip Tilley, who received his first Guide Dog from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT last year, encouraged the community to find out more about the services offered  by the organisation.

Before receiving the handsome blonde Labrador named Nelson, Phillip, who lost his sight due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, used a long cane to navigate his surroundings for eight years.

“Since receiving a Guide Dog, my freedom of movement has increased dramatically,” Phillip said.

“I’m fitter, I’m out and about more, and my balance and posture is far better. It’s also a lot more fun taking a dog for the walk than a cane.”

In addition to his Guide Dog, Phillip uses a miniguide and a Trekker Breeze GPS to get around his community safely and independently.

“It’s important for the community to understand that Guide Dogs NSW/ACT provide more than just Guide Dogs. They can assist with other mobility aids and Orientation and Mobility Specialists can offer advice on your own situation,” he said.  

Phillip also emphasised that anyone experiencing vision loss should contact Guide Dogs sooner rather than later.

“In hindsight, I wish I had sought assistance sooner. I thought I could do it all myself, and didn’t realise the variety of ways Guide Dogs could help.”

Mr Hill emphasised that people do not have to be blind to receive services. “Some people are born blind, while others might lose their sight gradually and still have some remaining vision,” Mr Hill said.

“Anyone losing their sight is encouraged to contact us early, to reduce the risks of falls, accidents and depression.”

“We can also assist with low vision aids including handheld and desktop magnifiers, special lighting options, text-to-speech devices, digital audio books, screen reading and magnification software, and products to assist with activities of daily living.”

Every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with vision loss that cannot be corrected, including nine who will become blind.

Guide Dogs has a strong presence in Northern NSW with instructors covering the region from Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie to Tamworth, Armidale and Ballina, right up to the Queensland border.