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HomeminewsOnline Community Platform for Guide Dogs

Online Community Platform for Guide Dogs

CatchUp, a dedicated online community platform is now available for people with low vision or blindness, their family and friends.

Launched by Guide Dogs Australia, the platform comes in response to requests for a place where people with low vision or blindness can connect, learn, educate and support one another. It hosts expert articles, video tutorials and discussion forums, enabling members to engage with other people with low vision or blindness about the topics most important to themselves.

CatchUp allows users to:

  • CatchUp on relevant and impactful information,
  • Connect and socialise with people with shared experiences or develop communities together via a Social Groups functionality, which allows members to create Discussion threads,
  • Learn everyday living skills and access learning in interest areas such as blind knitting, blind sports and more, and
  • Source information about services from Guide Dogs and partners.

According to Guide Dogs Australia, through education and connection CatchUp will play a key role in achieving the organisation’s mission to support people with low vision or blindness to be independent and achieve the goals they have in life.

In an increasingly digital world it’s more important than ever for people with low vision or blindness to be able to navigate the online world confidently. This includes making appointments with service providers, accessing information about services and funding, or even being able to learn about events that they may wish to attend.

It’s everything from articles by people with lived experience, informative videos about technology, news and even some really fun things happening in the community, like events or accessible shows

“CatchUp is a place for people to access the specific information that they need, when they need it,” said Guide Dogs Victoria CEO Karen Hayes. “It’s not just about Guide Dogs services either. It’s everything from articles by people with lived experience, informative videos about technology, news and even some really fun things happening in the community, like events or accessible shows. It’s the information that you need on demand, or Guide Dogs on demand.”

“Improving accessibility and user experience has been a huge focus of this project,” says Guide Dogs NSW/ACT CEO Dale Cleaver. “The launch of our new brand and websites last year really focused on creating online platforms that were fully accessible, so it made sense to pull the community hub into the wider digital design ecosystem so our channels were aligned.”

Evolving Sense of Community

CatchUp is not only for Guide Dogs Australia clients. The platform welcomes new users across the entire community, including people with lived experience, families and friends supporting someone with low vision or blindness, and practitioners. The goal is to bring the community together.

“I thought the previous version of the hub was ok but it wasn’t anything attention grabbing. It felt a bit like trolling through a news website. It was a great source of information but you never really felt connected with the community the information was about.” says Guide Dogs client, Dan Pritchard. “Now it’s a completely different experience. You still have your news and information but now you also have that community. I can interact with others, find out their thoughts and have those shared experiences. I can’t wait to see who I’ll meet from anywhere in Australia on CatchUp”.

Catch Up’s genesis came about in 2018 as the previously known ‘Community Hub’, after Guide Dogs Victoria received an Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) National Readiness Grant to co-design and develop a working prototype of an Information and Peer Linkages Platform – a platform to bring people together. Guide Dogs undertook an extensive process in partnership with the blind and low vision community and the DXC Digital Transformation Centre at Swinburne University. As a result of the partnership and research, CatchUp has been built and re-named accordingly, following the insight that 34% of clients interested in an online platform wanted to build social connections.

Guide Dogs plans to make CatchUp more engaging and personalised in the coming months and beyond. This will include improving existing functionalities and creating new ones such as subscription preferences, Guide Dogs services request forms, user-generated events, forums and polls, and saving favourite content.

People can sign up here.