All in a day’s work: Guide Dogs Aus. visits UTS Orthoptics
Guide Dogs Australia recently visited our second-year Orthoptics Students to deliver a unique guest lecture. Barb has low vision and her guide dog Samara provides her with assistance to get around her community safely and independently. Second-year student Stacey writes about meeting Barb and Samara.
Guide Dogs Australia is a not-for-profit charity that aims to help people with low vision make the most of their residual sight. They don’t just deal with dogs. They also teach vision impaired individuals how to use canes, in addition to general orientation and mobility, education and low vision assessment. Orthoptists are increasingly becoming employed by low vision organisations such as Guide Dogs.
We were introduced to a non-sighted person named Barb, and her delightful guide dog Samara. This particular dog was the fourth guide dog she has received over the past 24 years. She has suffered from an eye condition since her youth that has diminished her vision to the point where she can only perceive light. Barb initially started off using a cane to aid her mobility but progressed onto a guide dog after she developed a strain injury in her arm.
It was really interesting to learn about how low vision patients cope with their condition. Barb is lucky enough to have a guide dog to help her live a normal life; she can go and catch a train anywhere she likes, go to the supermarket or go to the bank. These are many things that most of us take for granted.
We learned some interesting facts about the Guide Dogs themselves and their line of work.
Guide dogs are working as soon as their harness is placed on them. If you ever see a guide dog out in public, please don’t pat them, feed them or attempt to gain their attention.
Did you know?
- Training a guide dog can cost more than $30,000
- Only Labradors, Golden Retrievers or Labrador/Golden crosses are used in Australia due to their gentle temperament
- Guide dogs are working as soon as their harness is placed on them. If you ever see a guide dog out in public, please don’t pat them, feed them or attempt to gain their attention. Dogs are easily distracted enough without all the extra attention they may receive! Pet dogs should also be kept away from guide dogs in harness. These animals are often doing an important job; for example, helping their non-sighted companion cross a busy road. A low vision person is merely relying on the dog’s vision and awareness of traffic, as well as their hearing; this can mean a dog may signal to go when it is not safe if it is not fully concentrating.
- When a guide dog is not wearing its harness, it can relax and play
- The training of a dog must be reinforced at least once a month, as they can forget important skills
- Guide dogs are allowed in all public places; it is illegal to prevent a dog from entering any space
Guide Dogs also taught us how to help low vision patients navigate a space. It is definitely a lot harder than it looks! This is a very rewarding field that has many opportunities for future orthoptists. Stepping into the shoes of a patient adds to your empathy as a clinician. Orthoptists can have a pivotal role in educating, assessing and managing low vision patients. It is important to understand the psychosocial impact of low vision, and the professionalism required to consult such individuals.
For more information please see: Guide Dogs Australia FAQs
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