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16 June, 2017

Self-defence course empowers Coffs Harbour residents with vision loss

Clients and Guide Dogs staff listen to instructions at the Self Defence Course

Being grabbed by someone you don’t know would be a terrifying experience for anyone, but just imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t see.

For people who are blind or vision impaired, learning the basics of how to stay safe and defend themselves when out and about is important in maintaining an active and independent life.

This week, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT ran a self-defence course in Coffs Harbour for clients with sight loss to learn personal safety skills. Held at Combined Self Defence & Fitness, the participants, accompanied by Guide Dogs Orientation & Mobility Specialists, learned special techniques from Senior Instructor Bernard Town.

“The Self Defence Course is a good way to empower clients and to give them the skills to defend themselves,” said Guide Dogs Orientation & Mobility Specialist, Fiona Henwood.

“It’s also a great opportunity for clients to be physically challenged at their own pace with one-on-one guidance and tips from professionals.”

Galen at the Self Defence Course learning some techniques from an instructor

Coffs Harbour resident Galen Reilly, 19, who has been legally blind since birth and uses a long cane to navigate his surroundings safely and independently, said he enjoyed the day.  

“I participated in the course earlier this year and enjoyed everything about it. The instructor was great and took the time to explain different methods for defending yourself. This time around it was great to brush up on those skills,” Galen said.

“While self-defence is probably a skill everyone should learn, I think it’s particularly important if you have a vision impairment to learn some strategies to protect yourself,” he said.

Each year, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT 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.

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