Woman with low vision going for a walk with her golden guide dog.

With the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) rolling out across seven more regions in NSW from July 1 this year, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is encouraging anyone with a vision impairment who is aged  65 or under to contact the organisation to discuss what options and supports they may have available to them under the new Scheme.

One person who is already is already receiving funding is Guide Dog handler Judy Phillips who transitioned to the Scheme in 2014.

“It has helped me live a life like everyone else has,” Ms Phillips, who began to receive her NDIS funding during the Hunter trial, said.

Her NDIS plan includes support for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT training services along with homecare and personal care. This has allowed Ms Phillips to continue working with a service that has assisted her to maintain her independence since she began to lose her sight as a teenager.  

“Guide Dogs has helped me a lot over the past 20 years, I know I have the support behind me for anything that I want to do. If I want to travel on a new route, I know Guide Dogs are there to support me in every way,” she said.

Ms Phillips also receives funding under the NDIS to pay for her Guide Dog, Riley’s, every day needs.  “The NDIS funding covers his food, his vet bills and any grooming he might need over 12 months,” Ms Phillips said. “For me this just means I have a little bit of extra money in my purse every week, which helps to pay for other things.”

As a registered NDIS services provider, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has provided services to residents aged 65 and under who are blind or vision impaired during the rollout of the new funding program in the Hunter, ACT and Nepean-Blue Mountains areas.

“Vision loss can be a challenging disability, but our services help people to realise that it doesn’t have to limit their independence,” NSW/ACT General Manager Client Services, Frances Tinsley said.

“From learning how to use a long cane or a Guide Dog to talking GPS software and practical strategies for safely crossing roads, our services enable people with vision loss to get to school, university, work, sport, social events or wherever they need to go,” she said.

“Our team of specialists travel across the region to provide one-on-one programs to residents who are blind or vision impaired.”

From July 1, the NDIS will begin to become available to those living in the Central Coast, Northern Sydney, South Western Sydney, Southern NSW and Western Sydney regions, along with the remaining populations in Hunter New England and Nepean-Blue Mountains.

In July 2017, residents in Illawarra Shoalhaven, Mid North Coast, Murrumbidgee, Northern NSW, Western NSW, Far West NSW, South Eastern Sydney and Sydney regions will be able to apply.

“We’re looking forward to continuing to work with the National Disability Insurance Agency and hoping our clients will continue to benefit from the assistance available under this significant advancement in the provision of disability support and services,” Ms Tinsley said.

Ms Phillips said those thinking of applying should think carefully about their personal plan and seek advice. “Know what you want and just go for it,” she said.

Ms Tinsley emphasised that for anyone with a vision impairment who was wanting more information on how to best transition into the scheme that they should contact Guide Dogs NSW/ACT to discuss the wide range of options available.  

She also stressed that for the many people who are blind or vision impaired who will not be eligible for NDIS funding, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s services will continue to be provided free of charge.

Here is some information on what supports Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is registered to provide under the Scheme.