HE’s the world’s biggest guide dog, and Gulliver’s travels took him to Tamworth on Thursday.
The Guide Dogs NSW/ACT mascot was spreading the message about how the group can help people who are blind or vision-impaired to get around safely, confidently and independently.
“Like Gulliver on his travels throughout the ACT and NSW, our instructors travel to wherever our services are required,” regional manager Jeremy Hill said.
“We come to you, wherever that may be – your home, your workplace, your school or university.
“Helping you learn to find your way around your particular environment is a top priority.”
Gulliver is made out of fiberglass, is 4.3 metres tall and has been touring northern NSW.
Mr Hill said his organisation was about more than just guide dogs, and could help with other mobility aids and through the personalised help and advice of orientation and mobility specialists.
Phillip Tilley’s story
Gulliver and his real-life buddies are symbols and tools of freedom for many people with vision impairments, such as Kingswood resident Phillip Tilley.
“My freedom of movement has increased dramatically,” Mr Tilley said.
“I’m fitter, I’m out and about more, and my balance and posture is far better. It’s also a lot more fun taking a dog for the walk than a cane.”
He’s had Nelson, who is now two-and-a-half, for almost 12 months.
Mr Tilley has lost his sight due to retinitis pigmentosa, and used a long cane to navigate his surroundings for eight years before receiving Nelson.
He spent three weeks in Penrith, then a week back on home turf, learning how to work with him.
No one came and talked to me with my cane, but everyone comes and talks to me with Nelson.Phillip Tilley
Mr Tilley also uses a miniguide echolocator and a Trekker Breeze talking GPS to get around.
And he said he wished he’d tapped into the available help a little sooner.
“I was stubborn and refused to get help,” he said.
“I’d encourage everyone to get help earlier, as there are skills you can learn while you still have sight.
“It’s something you can learn to manage.”
Mr Tilley said Nelson was still “a pampered pooch” sometimes and “after a big day like today, he’ll go home and go to bed”.
Mr Tilley said Nelson was also a great conversation-starter.
“No one came and talked to me with my cane, but everyone comes and talks to me with Nelson.”
He said he’d celebrate the anniversary of his partnership with his guide dog with – hopefully – a Blues win in the State of Origin, which he’ll listen to on his transistor radio.
Make life easier for people with vision impairments – Phillip Tilley’s top tips:
- Shop owners: don’t allow tables, chairs or displays to obstruct footpaths just outside shops. Dogs use ‘shore-lining’ – walking along buildings – to keep track of where they’re going, and if they have to walk around objects they briefly lose track.
- Tradies: if you angle-park, don’t leave ladders or other objects hanging off the back of your ute over the footpath.
- Individuals: speak up to make your presence known. Offer help if it looks like it’s needed. If guiding someone, allow the person to take your arm above the elbow.
- Dog lovers: A dog in harness is working, so please don’t disturb it. If the dog out of harness, it’s OK to ask for a pat.
Mr Hill emphasised that people didn’t have to be blind to receive services.
“Anyone losing their sight is encouraged to contact us early, to reduce the risks of falls, accidents and depression,” he said.
“We can also assist with low vision aids including handheld and desktop magnifiers, special lighting options, text-to-speech devices, digital audio books, screen reading and magnification software, and products to assist with activities of daily living.”
- For more information about local services, call Guide Dogs NSW/ACT on 6652 7424 or visit www.guidedogs.com.au