Six young Guide Dogs clients with canes preparing to bushwalk through Cumberland State Forest

Bushwalk program

Exploring the rugged terrain of the Australian bush, a group of primary school aged Guide Dogs NSW/ACT clients, who are vision impaired, had an adventurous start to the year with a bushwalk through the Cumberland State Forest.

Held towards the end of the school holidays on January 21, the event aimed to provide the children with an opportunity to take part in fun and educational activities that facilitated in increasing their orientation and mobility skills in a new environment.

The day-long adventure began with a 1km bushwalk along the Palm Gully Trail, where the children used two types of cane tips to navigate over the track. Some used the Bundu ‘bush basher tip’ cane, which has an arc-shaped tip that is specially designed for traversing rough, rural terrain. Others had the chance to trial the Dakota Disk, a new disk-shaped cane tip that can glide more smoothly over uneven surfaces.

“The bushwalk allowed them to practice going over different terrains such as roots, rocks, and sticks. It was interesting to see which mobility tool they preferred,” said O&M Specialist Jacqueline Johnson, who ran the event.

One bushwalker who particularly enjoyed using the new Dakota Disk was Christine Douglas, who is 12 years old and was born with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia.

“I thought the Dakota Disk was really good. I liked how it spins over the ground; it really helped on the bushwalk,” said Christine.

During the day, the children also learnt about the native flora and fauna through a talk with a park ranger, who passed around different plants and animal specimens for them to feel. This was followed by a Sensory Trail walk, where the children had the chance to feel and listen to the different sights and sounds of the national park.

“My favourite part of the day was the Sensory Walk because we got to touch the trees and listen to the sounds of the bush,” said Christine.

For six out of the seven young clients who attended the program, this was their first time exploring the Cumberland State Forest. Accompanied by five Guide Dogs O&M Specialists from the organisation’s Blacktown office, it was an entertaining and informative day for all.

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 participate freely in everyday activities at school, at home and in the local community.