Big guide dog a sight to behold

BEGA’S Littleton Gardens became a monument of hope for the vision impaired on Wednesday with a 4.3-metre tall fibreglass guide dog taking the stage. 

With “Gulliver” was Judy Hackett, orientation and mobility instructor with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

She explained the organisation offers a range of services in addition to guide dogs.

“Most of our work involves training people in how to move safely, which could involve learning how to use aids like white canes, talking GPS technology or guide dogs,” Ms Hackett said.

An identification cane will assist vision-impaired people who just need to let people know that they have a problem.

The long cane is much more of a mobility aid, always feeling one step ahead of the way.

It helps the vision impaired find and avoid obstacles like stairs, gutters, trees, and other people. 

A much more advanced technology is the Miniguide.

It uses ultrasonic echo-location to detect objects. 

The aid vibrates to indicate the distance to objects - the faster the vibration rate the nearer the object. 

There is also an earphone socket that can be used to provide sound feedback.

Another electronic device is the Talking GPS.

It verbally announces names of streets, intersections and landmarks - and Ms Hackett has included Carp St businesses in the Bega one. 

Bega resident Fay Smith, whose vision is impaired due to a condition called macular telangiectasia, hopes Wednesday’s visit by the giant guide dog will raise awareness that vision loss doesn’t have to limit your independence. 

She was unaware of the extent of her vision loss until only recently.

Following a vision test, Ms Smith was diagnosed with MacTel, a degenerative vision condition about which little is known. 

“While my right eye has been weaker for a long time and my sight is slowly deteriorating, I believe that if I’d been diagnosed earlier, steps could have been taken to slow its progress,” Ms Smith said. 

Trevor Muller is yet another sufferer of vision impairment, with only 10 per cent vision.

His vision loss occurred after an operation to remove a brain tumour on the pituitary gland last Christmas.

“I find confidence in my cane as it is an identification to people that I suffer from vision loss,” Mr Muller said.

Ms Hackett, who covers from Narooma to Eden, encourages 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,” she said.

She encouraged people to use a mobility cane as a majority of people don’t need the assistance of a guide dog. 

Since contacting Guide Dogs NSW/ACT on the advice of her doctor, Ms Smith has received cane training and orientation and mobility services, but is also very thankful for a card she uses to sign forms with and a new 2014 calendar with large print. 

“The help I’ve received from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has meant a lot to me,” she said.

“I feel more independent.”

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