Self-defence course empowers young people with vision loss | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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18 April, 2016

Self-defence course empowers young people with vision loss

Young boy with vision loss practices self-defence technique with Guide Dogs Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Haylee Tumanik

Shake it off

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

For young 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.

Last week, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT ran a self-defence course called 'Shake it Off' for young clients as part of a school holiday youth program.

Held at the Sydney Self Defence Centre in Sydenham, the course focused on teaching the high school aged participants with vision impairment how to be safe and strong so that they can get around confidently and independently.

A group of young people with vision loss practice a self-defence technique

"When you're vision impaired, you're more likely to have your personal space violated. The personal safety course is a good way to empower the kids, and to give them the skills to defend themselves," said Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Haylee Tumanik.

"It's great because it doesn't just teach the kids how to be strong; it teaches them how to use their voice to stand up for themselves."

Haylee said that the course also provided young Guide Dogs clients with the opportunity to meet other young people their age who understand what it's like to live with vision impairment.

"It was a great bonding experience. On the day, the kids had to figure out how to get to the Self Defence Centre together as a group. This teaches them to be responsible for those around them and to look after each other," Haylee said.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT client Ruby, 16, said that meeting others who are also vision impaired is what she enjoys most about Guide Dogs youth programs.

"It's great being around people who have similar experiences. We can all relate to each other," Ruby said.

"For me, I find I'm very conscious of my surroundings and I'm always on hyper alert. The self-defence program will make me feel safer and more confident when travelling alone."

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.