Opening Australians’ eyes to help people who are blind or have low vision

Posted 1 month ago by Georgie Waters
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Australians who are blind or have low vision can gain independence through support given by organisations such as Vision Australia. [Source: Shutterstock]
Australians who are blind or have low vision can gain independence through support given by organisations such as Vision Australia. [Source: Shutterstock]

How running 100 kilometres could change the lives of Australians who are blind or have low vision

Key points

  • Each April, Vision Australia holds a national fundraising campaign to encourage Australians to get 100 kilometres of movement in one month to support Australians who are blind or have low vision
  • Around 453,000 Australians are estimated to be blind or have low vision, according to Vision Australia 
  • Aids to assist people who are blind or have low vision include white canes and Seeing Eye Dogs

This month, Vision Australia is running its annual 100k Your Way fundraising campaign. Australians are encouraged to register during April and achieve 100 kilometres of movement in support of people with low vision or who are blind. 

The goal of 100 kilometres may seem challenging, but when broken into smaller segments the distance is around 25 kilometres a week or just over 3.5 kilometres a day, which can be achieved through running, walking, jogging or using a wheelchair. 

Over 13 million Australians are affected by chronic eye conditions that can affect their vision, according to the latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Around 453,000 Australians are estimated to be blind or have low vision.

Vision Australia CEO Ron Hooton says raising money for Vision Australia means that the organisation can help change the lives of thousands of Australians who are blind or have low vision. 

“Each year Vision Australia supports more than 35,000 people who are blind or have low vision to be active and independent members of the community,” said Hooton.

According to CEO Ron Hooton, the 100K Your Way fundraising campaign raised $70,000 dollars in 2023, which goes towards helping Australians who are blind or have low vision to experience independence in daily activities.

“One of the many vital services we provide people who are blind or have low vision is orientation and mobility training, which helps equip them with the skills and confidence to travel independently, whether that’s for work, education or leisure,” Hooton said.

CEO Ron Hooton continues to explain that the ways Vision Australia helps Australians who are blind or have low vision are vastly different, depending on the person’s individual needs.

“From teaching people how to use white canes, to supporting people to navigate public transport or preparing them to be matched with a Seeing Eye Dog, our orientation and mobility specialists — the work our orientation and mobility specialists perform with our clients every day — is vital,” said Hooton.

While Vision Australia seems to be making a big difference in the lives of Australians who are blind or have low vision, extensive technology and information are also readily available, making it easier for these Australians to participate in everyday activities. 

 

Canes

There are three types of canes used to assist people who are blind or have low vision, namely: long canes, identification canes and support canes, according to Vision Australia

Long canes are held out in front of the person who is blind or has low vision to help them find possible obstacles and hazards while walking. 

Identification and support canes can be used to detect obstacles in one’s path too but are commonly used to highlight to others that the person using the cane is blind or has low vision. 

Identification canes may also be used to detect changes in one’s path such as steps and gutters. Support canes tend to be used as physical support for people with low vision.

 

Tactile paving

These patterns on footpaths often comprise dots or dashes to indicate to a person who is blind or has low vision that a footpath is ending. These can often be found at Australian train station platforms, pedestrian crossings and near traffic lights. 

Without these, people who are blind or have low vision may not be able to identify possible dangers such as cars or issues with footpaths. 

 

Seeing Eye Dogs

Also known as Guide Dogs, Seeing Eye Dogs are specially trained to enable their owners to live more independently within the community. 

Locating doors and steps, avoiding obstacles such as other pedestrians and obeying commands are key aspects of the training a Seeing Eye Dog receives in the typical 18-month training period. 

Not every dog is suitable for working as a Seeing Eye Dog. Most often, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are selected, but they must also be good in temperament and well-behaved. 

 

Reading Assistance

Many people will have heard of Braille, which is a reading and writing system for people who are blind or have low vision. Instead of letters, words are formed using raised dots which can be felt by the reader’s fingers as they glide them across the page. 

As Braille requires specialised printers, this reading system is not always available for all books or reading material. However, with the boom of audiobooks, people who are blind or vision impaired can enjoy listening to books as soon as they are released, rather than having to wait until they can find a copy in Braille. 

Additionally, people who have low vision may still be able to read, but the typical book text size may be too small for their eyes to recognise. Publishers sometimes release larger print books so people who have difficulty with smaller texts can enjoy reading too. Using magnifying glasses or enlarging print on ebook devices are other ways for people with low vision to enjoy reading. 

 

To help increase support for people who are blind or have low vision, have a go at participating in Vision Australia’s 100K Your Way challenge this month.

Participating in this year’s 100K Your Way is easy, with registration and fundraising information available on the Vision Australia event webpage.

 

How many kilometres can you achieve this 100K Your Way challenge?

Let the team at Talking Disability know on social media. 

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