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HomeminewsBoundless Campaign to Drive Blind and Low Vision Inclusion

Boundless Campaign to Drive Blind and Low Vision Inclusion

Sarah Hirst with her children and guide dog.

Guide Dogs NSW has launched a campaign to break down barriers that create distance between people with sight and those who are blind or have low vision. The organisation hopes the campaign will start a conversation that leads to a more inclusive world.

Young Australians have identified themselves as a major barrier to inclusion and accessibility for the blind and low vision community, new research from Guide Dogs NSW has revealed, echoing findings from the Disability Royal Commission around a lack of social connection, integration, and education in the community.

Through our ‘For a Boundless World’ campaign we will bring to light the realities of living with blindness or low vision, debunking myths around parenting, socialising and dating

Encouragingly the study of 400 Australians aged 18–35 found they are very aware of their knowledge gaps and three in four (75%) are motivated to help improve inclusion, but just don’t know how. With the Royal Commission identifying a need for a more active presence of diverse people with disability across schooling, employment and communities, the new research revealed just one in three young Australians have ever had any contact with someone with blindness or low vision.

A Need to Learn More to Change More

The study informed Guide Dogs NSW’s public awareness campaign ‘For a Boundless World’, which encourages the community to “learn more to change more” addressing the most common questions and breaking stigmas through the voices of young blind and low vision Australians.

Sarah Hirst is a Guide Dogs client and mother of two children aged two and four. Born with low vision, she is now paired with her third guide dog Zali.

Ms Hirst said when she is out with her partner, people still often ask if he is her support worker or carer. Additionally, when in public with her children, people often watch the way she does things differently – including being far more cautious than mothers with full vision.

Ms Hirst said she uses lots of assistive tech to help her look after the children. “So sometimes when I’m out with my two kids, people do have a bit of a double take when they realise that I’m their mum and I am blind, and I think they just have to get their head around the fact that I’m doing things a little bit different to get things done.”

Ms Hirst believes employment is a significant barrier for those living with low vision and blindness and is working in the community to make change.

A polished public speaker, she leads Guide Dogs’ Lived Experience Presenter program. Participants in the program learn skills to talk at corporate or media events on topics focussed around inclusivity and accessibility.

Barriers to Connection

More than one million Australians are expected to live with blindness or low vision by 2030, with Indigenous Australians three times more likely to be affected. While more than 60% of people with low vision or blindness are over the age of 65, three in ten are aged 19–64 and one in ten are under the age of 18.

Most young Australians admitted they have no idea how people with blindness and low vision date, socialise in groups, work, travel and parent:
• More than half think people with low vision or blindness find it difficult to date and form relationships (56%), socialise in a group situation (54%) or even work (57%),
• 70% believe it would be difficult to manage parenting, and
• 67% believe it would be difficult to travel / go on a holiday.

Despite their positive intentions, a surprising number of young Australians said they don’t even have the confidence to engage with people with blindness and low vision. The lack of understanding also led the majority of young people to fear vision loss and inadvertently create more barriers that isolate the blind and low vision community.

Breaking Down Barriers

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Chief Executive Officer Dale Cleaver said, “with 75% of people in the blind and low vision community reporting that they experience daily barriers in their life, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has launched the Boundless campaign to increase awareness and empower young Australians to act on their inclusive instincts through education and connection.

“What has also been significantly demonstrated throughout this research is an extremely limited understanding among young Australians on the lived experience of the 575,000 Australians currently living with low vision and blindness. Through our ‘For a Boundless World’ campaign we will bring to light the realities of living with blindness or low vision, debunking myths around parenting, socialising and dating to give people the confidence to engage with the community.

“We are now at a time where two thirds of young Australians agree the topic of living with low vision and blindness isn’t being discussed enough within society, we are bringing the conversation front and centre helping to close this knowledge gap and create a more inclusive world designed for those living with low vision and blindness,” Mr Cleaver concluded.