14 November 2018
Sensory Awareness: Aids for Poor Eyesight – By Interchange Australia Consultant, Suzanne Eustace
Every day, 28 Australians are diagnosed with permanent vision loss – of those, 9 will become blind. Guide Dogs NSW/ACT can supply participants with mobility aids that enable or improve independent travel. Importantly, their orientation and mobility specialists can assist and provide participants with thorough training in mobility equipment.
In today’s new technological world, we have high tech equipment that can be used by the visually impaired client as well as the original mobility aids:
Long canes are designed to physically detect obstacles as well as changes in height of the ground in front of the individual. Long canes can be solid, folding, or telescopic with the latter two canes being easy to slip into a handbag or backpack when not in use. Long canes are also light, inexpensive and have a range of replaceable cane tips for travelling over different surfaces.
Identification Canes (also called ID canes) are smaller than long canes and their white and red colours let other people know that the person holding the cane has reduced vision. Identification canes can be useful in difficult situations such as negotiating crowds or crossing roads.
Support Canes can be useful for people who experience problems with their balance when walking. Support canes are adjustable in length to ensure that each participant gets the perfect fit. Just like long canes and identification canes, support canes also have a white and red coating that lets others know that the user has difficulty with their vision. This can be particularly beneficial when using public transport, shopping or when walking in crowds. Even better, the white and red coating is reflective, which makes the user more visible – and safer – when travelling in low light conditions.
Guide Dogs are trained to enhance the mobility of participants by avoiding obstacles and stopping at steps, kerbs and other important changes in the surface of the path ahead. Guide dogs can be trained to locate objects such as seats, traffic light poles, doors and shop counters. Guide dogs can also be trained to assist participants to get to the destinations that they use regularly such as school, work, shops and community venues. Participants can apply to receive NDIS funding for the ongoing costs associated with owning a guide dog such as food, vet bills and pet insurance.
Miniguides are handheld electronic devices that detect objects in the environment using sound waves. Designed to be used with a long cane or guide dog, Miniguides are great for detecting objects such as poles, seats or obstacles at head height. Miniguides can even be used to find doorways or gaps between buildings.
Trekker Breeze GPS is a handheld GPS device specifically designed for people who are blind or vision impaired. The device speaks the names of streets, intersections and other important places in the environment while the user is travelling on foot or in a vehicle. The Trekker Breeze can also provide the user with information about shops and services that are nearby with the press of a button.
GPS on the iPhone Guide Dogs NSW/ACT can offer participants short-term loans of iPhones while they learn to use navigation apps such as their GPS app. Their O&M specialists also provide assessments and training so that participants get the right device, software and have the phone app.
There are a large range of high quality low vision aids available to purchase and many of which can be funded through existing government schemes. These include:
- lighting systems
- other devices such as CCTVs to help with reading
Interchange Australia have support workers who can assist with clients who are experiencing poor vision and assist with directing their care safely and securely within the home and in the community.
For more information about the support services Interchange Australia offers, please call one of our friendly and experienced Consultants on 1300 112 334.