Guide Dogs seek community help

SERVICES that help vision-impaired people find their way around and hold down jobs may not survive unless they are covered by the proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The 50-year-old Guide Dogs NSW organisation put its symbol, Gulliver the giant guide dog, on the back of a truck and took its campaign through the Upper Hunter last week.

The organisation is looking for 10,000 signatures to support its case for coverage.

Guide Dogs NSW principal mobility specialist Dr Desiree Gallimore said the organisation relied on public donations.

‘‘But there is a limit,’’ Dr Gallimore said.

‘‘If the orientation and mobility services are not included we will struggle to survive.’’

Orientation and mobility services include training people to use canes and training the famous Labradors and matching them to clients.

Singleton’s Eileen King has lent her support to the campaign because her guide dog has helped her to stay connected to the community.

‘‘She enables me to do a few of the things that I can still do, such as teach piano, do my banking and shopping and attend ballroom dancing classes,” Ms King said.

She said the organisation was the leading supplier of such services in the Hunter Region.

The federal government has announced the Hunter Region will be trial site for the scheme.

but Dr Gallimore said so far it had not described how it would work.

‘‘We have our bid [for coverage] ready,’’ Dr Gallimore said.

Dr Gallimore said the submission contained tools that would be able to measure a person’s impairment and eligibility for coverage.

She said it all depended on how much money would be in the scheme.

The costs of programs varied widely, depending a person’s needs, she said.

It costs $30,000 over three years to train and place a guide dog but less for other services.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the NDIS earlier this month.

The Medicare-style scheme is scheduled to begin from July 1, ahead of a national rollout.

The Hunter trial will be the largest, involving 10,000 people.

In its a report to the federal government, the Productivity Commission considered that guide dogs and assistance dogs could be included in supports provided in an NDIS.

The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs said it was working on practical details of how it will assesses people’s needs under the scheme.

To sign the organisation’s online petition go to the website visionloss.org.au.

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