Six vision-impaired teenagers took a Guide Dog for a “test drive” in a brand new joint Guide Dogs WA/ VisAbility workshop. It was the first of its kind in Western Australia.
The free workshop was aimed at young people aged 14-18 years old, to provide insight into Guide Dog mobility and the responsibilities of dog ownership.
The teenagers came from across the state, from the Kimberley to Albany. The full-day workshop, held during the July school holidays took place at VisAbility/Guide Dogs HQ in central Perth.
Three Guide Dogs WA Guide Dog Mobility Instructors led the workshop, which covered grooming, dog obedience and the responsibilities of owning and caring for a dog. The day culminated with an experience walk with a Guide Dog in harness.
Parents were invited to join the afternoon session, which was spent learning how to set off and turn procedures in preparation for the “test drive” experience walk.
Guide Dogs-in-training, Peter, Stewart, Cheezel, Winston and Loui lent their paws and thoroughly enjoyed getting involved in the grooming and walking sessions!
The Future Is Brighter
One participant, 16 year-old, Tegan has a bright future. For as long as she can remember, she has dreamed of a Guide Dog giving her independence.
Tegan has well-developed orientation and mobility skills and cannot wait to have a Guide Dog. She is responsible, intelligent and physically active, competing at state level in swimming. Her skills and attitude make her a good Guide Dog candidate.
However, Tegan has not experienced Guide Dog mobility before and would not normally have this opportunity until she turned 18. Tegan said the workshop was a lot of fun and informative. It has taught her a lot about what a Guide Dog could do to help her gain greater independence and freedom.
She believes that a Guide Dog would help her feel happy and free. She would be independent, like her big sister Chloe and could go out with her friends, adding:
It would be a completely different life…an “exciting life!”
Education and Career Opportunities
Guide Dogs create opportunities for young people with significant vision impairment. Benefits go beyond that of mobility. There is some evidence to suggest that improved educational outcomes is linked to a presence of a dog increasing children’s cognition and executive function.
It is hoped that the ‘ Test Drive a Guide Dog’ (TDGD) workshop will highlight to students the increased independence they would gain from a Guide Dog, along with the opportunity to plan a future with more choice, knowing that safe and complex travel can be achieved.
The workshop was funded by a grant from the Department of Education’s Non-Government Centre Support Fund. The grant underpins VisAbility’s “whole of life” view on education for students with disability. Exposure and life-skills in the area of Guide Dog mobility for students is one way this can be achieved.
Workshops will only be held when there is sufficient interest to run one. If you, or someone you know may be interested in taking part in the next workshop, please email Jenny.Gleeson@guidedogswa.com.au