A Lidcombe pharmacy is the first business in the suburb to adopt a model Guide Dog, to help raise awareness, and much needed funds, for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.
Masters Pharmacy owner Michael Teghlobi said he hoped the model dog would help educate the community about the free orientation and mobility services offered by Guide Dogs, that enable people who are blind or vision impaired to get around their communities safely and independently.
Luckily he won’t have to feed and walk his new dog as it is a statue of a Guide Dog that doubles up as a collection box.
Michael was prompted to promote the cause through customer Salma Abdo, who he has known since she was a child. The pharmacist has watched as Salma, who is vision impaired, has gained confidence and independence with her Guide Dog, Claire over the past six years.
Salma said although awareness was growing about access rights for people with Guide Dogs, she often had to explain to business owners that Claire is legally allowed to enter all public places, including shops and supermarkets, cafes and restaurants, pubs and clubs, hotels and motels, hospitals and medical practices.
“Michael is doing a wonderful service for people who are blind or vision impaired in explaining to his customers about Guide Dogs. He is a learned person who is respected in the community,” she said.
“He will be able to explain how much it costs to raise a Guide Dog, their role in the life of a person who is blind or vision impaired and outline that it is an offence to deny or charge a fee for the entry of a Guide Dog.”
Michael said many people had already asked about the model dog. “They are also donating their spare change, which will benefit Guide Dogs,” he said.
The model dog stands proudly near the Masters Pharmacy’s front counter.
“As Guide Dogs NSW/ACT receives less than two per cent of its funding needs from the government, fundraising initiatives such as collection dogs, like the one at Masters Pharmacy, allow our organisation to continue offering free services,” said Leila Davis, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s General Manager Fundraising.
“With demand for Guide Dogs, which cost more than $35,000 each to breed, raise and train, and our other services growing due to increasing numbers of people experiencing vision loss, so does our reliance on the public’s generosity,” she said.
Vision loss is a challenging disability and it is on the rise, with the number of NSW and ACT residents affected expected to reach 300,000 by 2020.
“But thanks to the community’s support, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT can help people with vision loss realise their disability doesn’t have to limit their independence,” Leila said.
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT services include training in how to use and provision of long canes, Guide Dogs and electronic travel aids, such as talking GPS technology.