Imagine this. You’re a young woman in her twenties driving one day, and you are in a car crash. That crash leaves you blind forever. Where do you go next, and how do you recover? This is what happened to Kathryn Stevens, who now devotes her life to promoting Guide Dogs Australia and the outstanding support that it has given her.
You have a large friend with you at Manning Mall today?
We brought Gulliver the giant guide dog down to Manning Mall to promote Guide Dogs NSW and show the services that they can provide to the people of the Manning area.
What services do they provide?
We do long cane training as well as guide dogs, and then of course there are other types of aides such as mini guides and GPS.
Do you use GPS yourself?
Technology is helping vision impaired people like me, so that we now have a GPS which comes from a mobile phone. It will never replace the cane or guide dog, but it certainly helps in areas that you are not quite familiar with.
You became blind from a car crash. How have guide dogs helped you?
I certainly did. I was 24 years old. I had a car accident down in Central West NSW, and my life has changed somewhat dramatically from that point.
I have been a client of Guide Dogs for over 18 years now and received my long cane training. I am also currently on my second guide dog, and if it wasn’t for the guide dogs I definitely wouldn’t have been able to get out and about and do half the things I‘ve done.
Guide Dogs NSW motto is: “Through mobility comes independence”, and that is very much the case for myself. I have lived in several different towns with my guide dogs, and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have had the bravery to do it otherwise.
What was the hardest thing for you to overcome after the accident?
In the beginning it was definitely the lack of independence, but being in a car accident I had many other injuries as well and had to have everything done for me. I have a very strong independent streak, and it was very nice to get all of that back.
Tell us about your guide dog?
I’ve had Perry for 3½ years, and as I said he is my second guide dog. He was about 20 months old when he arrived. He replaced JR, who was my first guide dog. Terry helps me get out and about, and of course there is no place that I can’t take him, including cafés, club and pubs. He is also allowed in taxis.
Are guide dogs specially trained?
I have heard it is very strict, but I don’t know the finer details of what they actually go through. But they do have to pass all levels of training before they are rewarded a guide dog medal and matched up with someone like myself.
Do you have a strong emotional attachment to your dog?
Your are with your guide dog 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You become the best of friends and the strongest of companions, and while Perry does a lot for me, I also do a lot for Terry.
He requires quite a bit of grooming, as you would know, as he is out and about a fair bit – and he loves going to cafés. It is one of the strongest bonds you can have, probably similar to what you have with a child.
Why should people help support Guide Dogs Australia?
Guide Dogs NSW receives no government funding and they provide their service to people like myself for free. All equipment and services are provided free of charge and not only that, the staff come to you. You receive a custom program designed for your personal needs, and of course that requires financial support, so that vision impaired people are able to live an independent life like everybody else.
Is there anyone you would like to say thanks to today?
I would like to say thanks to all the people of the Manning area for having Gulliver in town.
Go to: www.guidedogsaustralia.com for more information.