Young client walking with a Guide Dog beside an instructor

Seven people who are blind or vision impaired experienced walking with a Guide Dog at a Guide Dog ‘test drive’ in Goonellabah last week.

The goal of the day was to give participants, who currently use a long cane to move around safely and independently, an opportunity to find out more about the unique mode of mobility offered by a Guide Dog.

“We wanted to provide our young clients with the chance to find out more about Guide Dog mobility, the responsibilities associated with having a dog, and how to apply for one, should they desire to do so,” Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Team Manager, Jeremy Hill said.

“Most of the participants on Tuesday were young clients aged from 13-16 years old, including one child who was only nine years old!” 

As well as trialing walking with a Guide Dog under the supervision of an experienced Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, participants gained practical, hands-on experience with everyday tasks such as grooming, feeding and toileting a Guide Dog.

“As the leading provider of Guide Dogs and other services that enable people who have impaired vision to get around their communities safely and independently, it is important to let our young clients know about the options available to them,” Mr Hill said.

“Similar activities in Sydney have become very popular, so we decided to offer it to people living in regional areas. We have run similar events in Armidale, Coffs Harbour and Tweed Heads with great success.”

The participants will begin their walk with a Guide Dog, which has cost $50,000 to breed raise and train, at Kadina Park (opposite Kadina High school) in Goonellabah.

Guide Dogs have been trained to ignore distractions such as food and noise, navigate obstacles, travel on public transport, find landmarks such as bus stops, and cross the road safely.

Each year Guide Dogs’ highly trained Orientation and Mobility Specialists work with around 4,000 people of all ages to help them achieve their mobility goals.

To find out more about Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s services in the region, please call the Lismore office on (02) 6622 2535. To find out how you can help or to make a donation please visit www.guidedogs.com.au or call 9412 9300.