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Posted: September 19, 2012 by aliciajthomas6 in Health, Melbourne
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VISION impairment can be a hinderance for many, but with a helping paw, life’s tough moments have been made simpler.

Barbara Bonfield has been vision impaired her whole life, suffering from a retinal
disorder in her early years.

A helping paw: Barbara Bonfield has not looked back on her decision to ask for orientation and mobility training.

“All I can see is the brightness of lights and a whole lot of blurry dark shadows,” Ms Bonfield said.

Growing up Mrs Bonfield didn’t want to be different, avoiding telling anyone about her vision impairment.

“I pretended I could see things I couldn’t,” she said.

As the years progressed, Mrs Bonfield yearned for independence and sought training to improve her skills.

“I never went anywhere on my own. I never did anything independently until I first used a cane,” she said.

Mrs Bonfield now has the devoted assistance from Nara, a seven- year-old labrador who helps her get around her Penrith home.

“You can ask her to find the door, find the gate and she does.”

Mrs Bonfield says she wouldn’t be the same without the help she has received from Guide Dogs.

“Being able to do the things I couldn’t before has given me confidence.”

Guide Dogs have played a major role in not only Mrs Bonfield’s life, but many others with vision impairments across Australia.

But by 2020 the number of NSW and ACT residents aged over 40 with vision loss is projected to reach 100,000 and without the support of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) vital support for vision impaired people won’t meet the growing demand.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is seeking 10,000 signatures in support of its call for the government to ensure the NDIS funds orientation and mobility services, including canes and guide dogs, that enable people whose functional mobility is affected by vision loss to be independent.

The world’s biggest guide dog, Gulliver, began a tour of Australia earlier this month to raise awareness of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT NDIS: A Vision for All campaign.

The fibreglass model dog weighing 690 kilograms, has helped gain 1500 signatures in the first two weeks of his regional tour set to end in Melbourne on October 15, International White Can Day, to present the signatures to the Federal Minister of Disability Reform Jenny Macklin.

Campaign spokesperson Dr Desiree Gallimore said Guide Dogs is a leading provider in assisting people with vision impairments to move around without the reliance on family and friends.

“People with vision impairments need help to get around independently,” she said.

“But we won’t be able to meet the demand without funds.”

Furry friend: Labradors are trained to help navigate people with vision impairments around obsticles.

Orientation and mobility services have assisted people like Australian Paralympian Jenny Blow to accomplish tasks on their own.

In the past year orientation and mobility instructors from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT have provided over 8000 training programs to enhance the independence of people across regional NSW who have trouble getting around due to vision loss.

Visit for more information and to register your support.