WITH vision loss on the rise, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is hoping this week’s visit to Narooma with its giant guide dog “Gulliver” will draw attention to the free services available to local residents experiencing problems getting around due to failing eyesight.
Chace Richardson, an orientation and mobility instructor with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and who covers from Mollymook to Narooma, encouraged people to seek the organisation’s help early.
“Losing your vision to a condition like glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration can seem debilitating, but our services can enhance your independence so you can continue to get out and about,” said Chace, who joined Guide Dogs NSW/ACT in 2011.
“And you don’t have to be totally blind to get help. In fact, the earlier you see us the better.
“We come to you and work with you to develop strategies and skills such as safe road-crossing techniques and use of public transport to enable you to move around your environment and community safely.”
Chace’s passion for providing services to people who are blind or vision impaired was sparked by his father, who umpired blind cricket. A former orientation and nobility instructor, he inspired Chace to join the profession when they worked together providing support services to secondary students with a vision impairment in NSW schools.
“I now really enjoy working with people of all ages to provide them with tailored orientation and mobility training programs to support their independence through safe mobility,” Chace said.
An Access Economics report on the economic impact of vision loss in Australia shows that low vision increases the risks of falls, accidents and depression.
However, a Roy Morgan survey for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT revealed that almost 60 per cent of respondents were unaware the organisation provided services for people who were starting to lose their vision.
In addition, 55 per cent of respondents said they would wait at least until their vision impairment had progressed and they were finding it difficult to get around, or could even do nothing, before seeking help from organisations like Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.
Chace said Guide Dogs NSW/ACT offered a range of services in addition to its guide dogs.
“Most of our work involves training people in how to move around safely, which could involve learning how to use aids like white canes, talking GPS technology or guide dogs,” he said.
“We believe vision loss shouldn’t be a barrier to leading a fulfilling life and understand that independence and mobility give people the freedom to enjoy life, embrace new experiences and reach their goals.”
In the past year, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s instructors have worked with more than 4000 people of all ages to help them be independent.
Nearly half of its training programs are delivered outside the Sydney metropolitan area. With 10 offices across the ACT and NSW, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is committed to servicing all communities and providing local services wherever possible.
Research estimates that the number of NSW and ACT residents aged over 40 with impaired vision is projected to increase by 20 per cent to reach 120,000 by 2020.
For more information about Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s local services, contact 6285 2988 or visit www.guidedogs.com.au