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16 September, 2016

Henty Field Days

A close up shot of a blonde Guide Dog in harness

Guide Dogs spreads important message at Henty Field Days

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 20 to 22.

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 safely and independently, 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 & Bequest 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 such as the long cane and electronic devices," she said.

North Albury resident Christine Harris, who is vision impaired, will be at the Guide Dogs stall on Wednesday to speak about the services she has received from the organisation.

"Guide Dogs gave me mobility training with a long cane as well as orientation training around my neighbourhood. They taught me how to get around by using landmarks and gave me tips on how to cross the road safely," Christine said.

"The services I've received have given me much more independence and confidence. It's been wonderful."

At the field days, Christine will be on hand at the stall to answer any questions the public may have about the services Guide Dogs provide.

"I'm looking forward to explaining to people that Guide Dogs is not just about dogs. Like me, they can give you orientation and mobility training and everyday skills to help you live an active, independent life with vision impairment," she said.

There are an estimated 300,000 Australians with uncorrectable vision loss, 100,000 of whom live in NSW and the ACT. These figures are predicted to increase by more than 50% by 2030.

More than a third of people with eye disorders live in country areas, but people in rural and regional areas, especially males, tend to not get their eyes checked regularly.

"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 provided at no cost," he said.

Each year highly trained Guide Dogs Orientation & Mobility Specialists work with around 4,000 people of all ages to help them achieve their mobility goals. Programs are tailored to meet the lifestyle needs of each individual, and most training is delivered locally, in the person's home, community or work environment.

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 needs from the government, we rely on the public's generosity to provide our services at no cost to those who need them, so ongoing support from the community will enable more people to enjoy the independence and confidence our services can provide," Mr Still said.