Blind World Magazine

There's more to vision impairment than having a guide dog.

ABC Wide Bay, Queensland Australia.
Thursday, July 27, 2006.

It can be hard enough to find your way around a shopping centre or a new town - but spare a thought for those who have to do it without being able to see.

David Roesner is the orientation and mobility instructor with Guide Dogs Queensland.

But the organisation does more than just provide dogs trained to act as guides to the vision-impaired - they provide all sorts of mobility-oriented services to their clients.

"It's about helping people with vision impairments travel more safely and effectively," David says.

"Sometimes losing their vision has been a gradual impairment and people are used to it. But sometimes it's been pretty sudden and mentally, emotionally, they're a bit stunned."

We've seen massive changes in technology in the last few decades. How has this changed some of the basic navigational hardware available to people with impaired vision - like the traditional white cane?

"It hasn't changed too much," David says. "About 90% of people who travel use a standard long cane, a little bit more lightweight than it was thirty years ago, but otherwise unchanged.

"There are a couple of devices - a sonar cane and a laser cane that send rays out, it's a more high tech version of the cane - but most people don't like it any better than the regular cane."

As orientation and mobility instructor, Mr Roesner works with people who have aquired vision impairment, as well as those who have lived their whole lives without sight.

David says the different circumstances bring different challenges.

"People who have been vision imparied all their lives have no idea of a lot of concepts, especially street crossings and things, but people who've lost their sight later in life have a better idea of how the traffic works, traffic patterns, and they can be better off when they're travelling.

"That's what we try to do, too, is give them a mental image of what's going on when they haven't seen it before."

And David says while guide dogs are perhaps the most conspicuous tool available to a vision-impaired person, not everyone wants or needs a labrador.

"It's a complicated process," says David of the task of deciding when a person should receive a guide dog.

"It's based on how much you would use it, how much you'd get out of it, making sure you could take care of a dog, and if you want it.

"A lot of people don't travel that much and think it would be more hassle than it's worth - it's still a pet and it's a lot of work.

"You have to want a pet as well as want the tool that is a guide dog."


David Roesner (left) from Guide Dogs Queensland with Wayne Shearman.

A high-contrast, large-face watch designed for people with low vision. 'Braille' watches are also available, as are those that 'speak' the time.

An oversize remote with large-print buttons can help people with vision or co-ordination difficulties take control of the telly.

End of article.

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