Guide Dogs NSW/ACT job in mobility and orientation

Steve Widders "feels" the Tactile Ground Surface Indicator tiles on the footpath as he walks along with Tamson Mayo.
Steve Widders "feels" the Tactile Ground Surface Indicator tiles on the footpath as he walks along with Tamson Mayo.

Although Guide Dogs NSW/ACT gained its reputation by providing trained animals for the blind, ex-school teacher Tamson Mayo said the organisation offered so much more now.

She said being a mobility and orientation specialist for the organisation was a very rewarding occupation.

Tamson’s job is to teach blind or vision-impaired people to travel independently using a cane, and electronic and GPS equipment.

“It is a complicated job but, once you know all the little tips and tricks, it makes it easier for people who can’t see to get around,” she said.

“It’s not like they can’t go anywhere because they can’t see anymore.

“It gives them another way of navigating through their environment.”

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Tamson and Armidale resident Steve Widders – whom she described as being a bit of an ambassador for Guide Dogs – met with Fairfax Media in the city’s mall.

“Even though Steve learned how to use a cane a long time ago, we do like to check in and give him refresher lessons, just to make sure he hasn’t gotten into any bad habits that might potentially make it dangerous for him to be travelling around,” Tamson said.

It was very difficult for me to learn to begin with, but it means independence.

Steve Widders

Steve has been blind for 28 years and a client of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT for 27 years.

He has never had a guide dog, because he prefers to use a cane.

“I can maintain a good quality of life and don’t have to be dependent on other people all the time,” he said.

“The training was very important in my life; it made a very big difference and allows me to be productive and independent.”

Ever noticed those tiles in the footpath with their rows of round buttons on top? To a sighted person they mean very little and many might think they are some sort of anti-slip tile, but they are not.

Steve calls them Tactile Ground Surface Indicators and, through his cane, they warn of an obstacle coming up. The tiles with the long, rectangular shaped buttons on top are directional, and tell him which way to walk.

Tamson said Guide Dogs NSW/ACT was about to start another round of recruiting for mobility and orientation specialists.

“They’re particularly looking for people up in this area,” she said.

“They are offering a scholarship for a Master of Disability with Macquarie University. Once you are six months into that, you start working with Guide Dogs.

“It’s really interesting and an incredibly rewarding job.”

  • To apply, or for more details, call Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Coffs Harbour on 6691 8500 or visit their website.