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Case Studies

Confidence to travel

Colin on a train

Colin is now very independent and often comments about how the services provided by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT have improved the quality of his life.

Colin, a professional ice skater who performed all over Europe, has Lyme disease, contracted through a tick bite when he was 25.  At the time, the doctors explained that this would affect his vision later in life.  Colin’s sight began to deteriorate around 10 years ago and has declined slowly since.  He describes his vision as like looking through fog.  As a result of his vision loss, Colin did not leave his house very often unless accompanied.

Following a fall, Colin referred himself to Guide Dogs. Support from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT initially focussed on a low vision assessment to determine if any low vision aids would assist Colin with reading and safe road crossings.  He was initially reluctant to receive a long cane.

However he knew he needed training in how to use one due to his deteriorating vision.  This involved a weekly one-hour session for 3 months.  Guide Dogs NSW/ACT successfully advocated on Colin’s behalf to have his local council install a pedestrian island near his home, as he was having difficulty crossing there during peak hour.

After gaining increased confidence and independence, Colin decided to start GPS training and absolutely loved it.  He’d never used a computer or mobile phone before, so he initially found the technology difficult to learn and understand. His enthusiasm and positive attitude helped him succeed.  GPS has given Colin the confidence to travel to unfamiliar areas.  These include trips to Manly, the City and Wisemans Ferry to name a fewplaces he regularly travels to.  Colin even uses his GPS enabled phone to identify his bus stop, which means he doesn’t have to rely on the driver or other passengers.

Colin is now very independent and often comments about how the services provided by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT have improved the quality of his life. Recently, he made the hard decision to stop travelling independently at night, as he finds this extremely difficult.  Yet Colin is not too worried about this, as he makes the most of his time getting out and about during the day!


Confident youngster 

Hugo walking with his cane

Hugo is no longer apprehensive walking
without holding onto
an adult’s hand

3-year old Hugo was born with congenital abnormalities resulting in him having no vision in one eye and low vision in the other. Hugo’s mother was concerned about his motor skill development and ability to use his remaining vision. She noticed he was hesitant when moving around, especially on uneven surfaces, and observed he was often comfortable playing with a hat over his eyes.

Following a referral to Guide Dogs, Hugo’s confidence and speed of movement increased considerably when he was given a pre-cane device. He was no longer apprehensive walking without holding onto an adult’s hand, or needing to use the support of a nearby wall. Hugo’s mobility lessons progressed to long cane training a couple of months later.

Hugo is now a confident youngster who is excited to go out and happily takes his cane wherever he goes.






Doreens Story 

Doreen and her Instructor Fiona Henwood

Doreen and her Instructor Fiona Henwood

At age 45, Doreen was diagnosed with PXE.  PXE or Pseudoxanthoma  elasticum is a rare condition which can affect, among other things, the skin and central vision.  Over the following years her vision slowly deteriorated.  At age 56 Doreen had to give up work and at age 62, she was declared legally blind.  Doreen is now 77.

Doreen attended a Stepping On program in 2011 where she found out about the Miniguide, a small handheld device which sends out ultrasonic beams.  When it detects an object the Miniguide provides feedback, either vibration or an auditory beep, depending on the model.  The closer you are to an object, the more feedback the Miniguide provides.  Doreen now uses the Miniguide regularly in conjunction with her support cane.

Doreen also has an ID cane, which she uses when travelling, but mostly she gets around with her support cane and Miniguide.  The Miniguide has increased her confidence significantly.

“I often go walking by myself and the Miniguide enables me to locate objects, such as poles, at eye level.  It is a very, very good gadget.  I really can’t live without my support cane.  Everywhere I go, so does my cane”, commented Doreen.

Motivated to be independent

Jeanette and her guide dog

Jeanette is currently training with her third guide dog, Takira, after a break of twenty years since her second dog retired.

Jeanette is currently training with her third guide dog, Takira, after a break of twenty years since her second dog retired.  She is enjoying walking at a faster pace again with her new dog.

Even though Jeanette is of a generation not generally used to using technology, she embraced a program provided by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT in how to use a Trekker Breeze talking GPS.   The device tells Jeanette where she is on a bus route, and has also assisted her with locating safe road crossing points and negotiating tricky turns on paths.

Jeanette’s main travel route is visiting her local shops in Wentworthville.  While she is not travelling on her own just yet, Jeanette is very motivated to be as independent as possible, and we feel it won’t be long before she ventures out on her own.


Life has begun to turn around

Wendy Williams with Judy Rogers (left) and Julie Mulvey from Calare Nursing Home.

Wendy’s confidence is growing and she can now better manage her vision loss and have more control over her life

Wendy Williams, who had experienced a number of falls due to low vision caused by a stroke and other conditions, was concerned she was going ‘totally blind’ when she wasn’t. She was losing her self-esteem and independence and was relying on others to do everyday tasks.  While she uses a wheeled walker to get around, her range of activity was limited due to growing anxiety and a fear of falling.

Wendy’s vision loss has also been confusing for her, her family, friends and staff at Calare Nursing Home, Orange.  As she wears glasses it’s easy to assume that Wendy has normal vision.  In reality, as a result of cataracts, astigmatism and a stroke, Wendy has lost the ability to see things at close range or down low. Depth perception is also a problem, meaning she could miss a step or lose her balance on uneven surfaces.

Making things even more confusing is that Wendy’s vision fluctuates.  Since working with Orientation & Mobility specialist Judy Rogers from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s Central West office, in conjunction with Calare’s physiotherapy staff, Wendy’s life has begun to turn around.  “We have been helping Wendy to better understand the complexities of her vision loss,” says Judy, who tailored a training program to suit Wendy’s needs.  “Her confidence is growing and she can now better manage her vision loss and have more control over her life.”

The program Judy has developed for Wendy exemplifies the diversity of specialised services Guide Dogs NSW/ ACT provides free of charge to help people with any level of vision loss to get around safely and independently.  Judy said a key focus of their work has been encouraging Wendy to manage her anxiety associated with loss of balance when faced with uneven surfaces.

Recently, Wendy travelled with Judy by car to a local coffee shop to give her the opportunity to practise getting in and out of a car; using her walker in a crowded and unfamiliar environment; managing money; dealing with staff; and ordering coffee.  Judy says Wendy has worked hard to achieve her goals and also attributes the program’s success to the involvement and support of Wendy’s physiotherapy team, support staff and the management at her nursing home.

As the program continues, Wendy is very excited with her achievements and is keen to learn more and progress further.

For more information on services and an assessment of vision, contact your local Guide Dogs Office: