Guide Dogs organisations across the country have launched a national campaign urging people experiencing issues with their vision to seek support sooner rather than later. ‘Don’t Delay, Seek Help Today’ has been launched in response to a survey that identified Australian’s are waiting too long before seeking help.
New research has revealed Australians are waiting too long to seek help when their eyesight begins to deteriorate, leading to increased risk of trips, falls, and loss of independence.
Results from the national survey of more than 638 Guide Dogs Australia clientele who use Guide Dogs or other mobility aids, were released by Guide Dogs Australia ahead of World Sight Day (13 October) and White Cane Day (15 October). The survey identified that more than half of Australians waited too long before seeking assistance when they began to experience issues with their eyesight – either because they felt they didn’t need help or didn’t know where to get it.
The survey found that over a quarter of the respondents waited for more than a year before seeking help after first having problems with their vision, with almost one in five (18 per cent) waiting for more than five years and 11 per cent waiting more than 10 years.
While many Australians didn’t seek help because they didn’t feel they needed it (46 per cent), almost a quarter (20 per cent) didn’t know where to find help. Some respondents acknowledged it took time to realise that reduced vision was not normal, and for others, recognising they needed help was the most challenging part. Over half the respondents regretted not seeking help earlier.
Guide Dogs Australia spokesperson and CEO of Guide Dogs Victoria, Karen Hayes, said for a person experiencing vision loss, waiting to get help can significantly impact the independence and their ability to live their life the way they want.
“Whether it’s having to rely on someone else to get to work or university, avoiding the shopping centre on a Saturday morning because it’s difficult to navigate the crowds or giving up going to the footy at the MCG, it can really have an impact on a person’s confidence and self-efficacy,” said Ms. Hayes.
Ms. Hayes said that as well as training guide dogs, her organisation’s most common program was to teach people with a vision impairment how to safely move through different environments, using a range of mobility aids such as the long cane and electronic devices.
“Each year our specialist staff works with people of all ages to help them achieve their mobility goals and realise their independence. We tailor our programs to meet the lifestyle needs of each individual, and most training is delivered locally, in the person’s home, community, school or work environment, at no cost,” she said.
• 638 Guide Dogs Australia clientele, both Guide Dog handlers and those using other mobility aids, were surveyed, via telephone and online, across the nation
• Survey participants were from a mix of regional and metro locations