Guide dogs key to restoring independence after vision loss

Posted 6 years ago by Andrew Lodiong

Trained dogs are continuing to change the lives of many Australians who have a vision impairment but not everyone in need has access.

Every year, over 10,000 people are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss with at least 3000 of those becoming blind, yet only one-in-four have a guide dog.

Guide Dogs NSW /ACT Chief Executive Officer Dale Cleaver says there is still a big demand for the animals in the state and territory.

“The number of people with vision impairment in NSW/ACT alone is estimated to be 122,000, and we anticipate around 50,000 people with sight loss want or need a service from us,” Mr Cleaver says.

“At the moment, we are unable to help about 75 percent of the people who desperately need a Guide Dog because we don’t have enough funding to undertake the complex breeding, training and matching process for more puppies and dogs.”

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is the leading provider of guide dogs in Australia and orientation and mobility services to enable people with impaired vision to get around their communities independently.

It takes more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train a guide dog paired with the ongoing support each owner receives from the organisation.

Liz Wheeler, who lives with a degenerative eye condition is one of the many Australians who have had their independence restored through the help of guide dog.

“The day I received my Guide Dog Poppi changed my life,” she says. “She gave me back my independence, safety and freedom.”

The Sydney resident now shares her experience to highlight the difference her trained companion has had on her life after losing her vision at a young age.

“My heart breaks for people with sight loss who don’t have a Guide Dog yet clearly need one, because Poppi really moves as one with me every day,” Mrs Wheeler says.

Mr Cleaver says the organisation will continue to work towards providing the vital service to those who need it.

“Our goal is to make sure every person that needs a Guide Dog has one, and we need your help to ensure that when someone loses their sight, they do not lose their freedom and independence as well.”