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18 July, 2016

Ice-skating mobility day

Two young clients with vision loss standing together on an ice rink

Winter wonderland adventure for young people with vision loss

Last week, young people with vision loss went ice-skating at the Parramatta Winterlight Festival as part of a school holiday Youth Program run by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

Guide Dogs Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Haylee Tumanik, said the high school aged participants were in charge of choosing and organising a night-time activity as part of the program. They spent a day planning the logistics of going ice-skating together as a team.

"This is a major component of our Youth Programs. They need to figure out how to get to their chosen location, where to meet, if they need to book a spot, how much money they need and if there are eateries nearby," said Haylee.

"This ensures all the youth are involved in the decision making processes and have their voice heard. It also encourages them to use problem solving skills as well as their technology skills, as they were given laptops and iPads to conduct their research."

Youth Program participants standing with their long canes below the Winterlight Festival sign

Haylee said that Youth Program activities like this allow Guide Dogs Orientation and Mobility Specialists to observe their clients building teamwork and decision making skills.

"On the night, it was great to see them use the money handling skills and social skills they practiced on the planning day," Haylee said.

"It was quite exciting to see them take charge and become independent young people in a new and busy environment."

Haylee said having activities at night is an important element of the Guide Dogs Youth Programs.

"Night-time activities like this challenge the youth to navigate indoor and outdoor areas in low lighting and use their mobility aids in different environments," Haylee said.

"It was a fun night for all."

Two young clients with vision loss standing on the rice rink together

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT supports children with vision impairment and their families by providing a wide range of free services to assist a child with vision impairment to 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.

Last year, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT assisted 448 children with vision loss and the organisation continues to rely on the support of the community to fund its free services.

Every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss, including nine who become blind.