Coonamble resident gains independence through Guide Dogs training

PROUDLY INDEPENDENT: Coonamble resident Annette Sim discovered a "much bigger world" by learning to use a long cane. Photo: Contributed

PROUDLY INDEPENDENT: Coonamble resident Annette Sim discovered a "much bigger world" by learning to use a long cane. Photo: Contributed

Vision-impaired Annette Sim felt “like someone had turned a light on” when she first started using a long cane.

A succession of falls prompted the Coonamble resident with less than six per cent vision to contact Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

Learning to use the cane increased her awareness of space, textures and noises in a “much bigger world”.

“Using the long cane has given me so much independence,” said the grandmother who works as a disability management services consultant in Dubbo.

A Guide Dogs Australia survey has revealed that 26 per cent of respondents waited more than 10 years to ask for help and 50 per cent two years.

Waiting increased their risk of trips, falls, isolation and depression.

On International White Cane Day, October 15, Guide Dogs Australia member organisations are launching a new campaign called Don’t Delay, Seek Help Today. It includes the release of a new video and brochure outlining the range of services on offer.

“Vision loss in those aged over 40 increases the risk of falls by two times, the risk of depression by three times and the risk of hip fractures from four to eight times, so it is important people contact us to find out about the services we offer at no cost to reduce their risk,” chief executive officer of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Dr Graeme White said.

“The survey revealed a range of reasons why people wait including not realising their vision was limiting their mobility until an incident occurred such as a fall, relying on family members to get around and a lack of understanding that a person doesn’t have to be totally blind to receive help.

“Every day, 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss, including nine who become blind, so it is important we reach out to ensure those who are experiencing problems with their sight maintain their independence to live the life they choose.”

Ms Sim learned to use the long cane through orientation and mobility training.

Each year Guide Dogs NSW/ACT specialists work with about 4000 people of all ages, with most of the training taking place “locally”.

For more information visit www.guidedogs.com.au.

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