Mobility and independence, youth test drive a Guide Dog

Last month, Guide Dogs Tasmania held a ‘Test Drive a Guide Dog’ camp for youth living with a vision impairment or blindness.

Held over two days in Launceston, participants experienced what it’s like to handle a Guide Dog.

2017’s ‘Test Drive a Guide Dog Day’, saw three out of the six participants continue on to obtain their own Guide Dog, allowing them to access the community independently. Since then the program has grown into a weekend camp.

Participants spend more time with the dogs and their peers, while experiencing first-hand what it is like to live and work with a Guide Dog of their own.

They were involved in a range of Guide Dog Handler-related experiences. Helping young people to decide if having a Guide Dog as a mobility aid would benefit them.

A teenage girl walking a Guide Dog with a female Guide Dog Instructor
Camp participant Sara walks Guide Dog Harmony under the watchful eye of Guide Dog trainer Rachael Hackney. Photo by ABC Hobart.

Kim Ryan, Guide Dog Services Tasmania Program Manager loves to see younger people in the community using a Guide Dog for their independence. “It’s fantastic to see the event grow from a day to a full weekend. Participants encounter a diverse range of Guide Dog Handler experiences, and now have much more time for social interaction with peers, to just be teenagers and have fun”.

A Guide Dog provides a truly special way for people living with vision impairment to live more independently and engage with their community. This is something particularly important for those navigating the challenging teenage years.

Kim Ryan, Program Manager, – Guide Dogs Services Tasmania

What the weekend involved

Participants joined in a range of activities aimed at providing a comprehensive and fun mobility experience.

Mobility activities across a range of settings included:

  • Navigating their way around the local area.
  • Visiting a shopping centre.
  • Eating out and using public transport.
  • Encouraging participants to take the opportunity to make informed decisions around their mobility goals.

Each participant had a dog allocated to them throughout the weekend that they took full responsibility for, under the supervision of qualified Guide Dog Staff. This included how to care for the health and welfare of dogs.

This invaluable experience hooked camp participant Sara after the first walk.

“That was awesome! I’ve watched lots of videos about Guide Dogs. It is so exciting to be using one for the first time. Guide Dogs are amazing”.

Where I live, no one else is blind so they don’t understand. I have really enjoyed the chance to talk to others experiencing what I am.

Sara, Test drive a Guide Dog camp participant

The camp was sponsored camp by tassielink. Without their sponsorship we wouldn’t have been able to run it.

If you’d like to find out more about this program or Guide Dogs TAS  please email Kim.Ryan@guidedogstas.com.au