Australian National Museum Training

The morning after Wiley and I returned from Sydney we had to be up bright and early to meet up with a colleague as we were scheduled to deliver some training to the wonderful staff at the Australian National Museum.

This was easier said then done as we were still recovering from our late finish the night before thanks to a delayed flight.

We actually had three training sessions booked, two on the Thursday and one on Good Friday. I was looking forward to visiting the museum as they have some wonderful exhibits, some of which are quite tactile. Our job was to talk to the gallery staff on how they can assist and ensure visitors who are blind or vision impaired get the most out of the wonderful museum.

I had conduct similar training a few years earlier. On that occasion when we practiced skills in the galleries I had been guided into a huge tractor bucket – big enough for me to stand up in. I was keen to repeat the process this time around. Our second group were kind enough to assist me and so for the second time I clambered my way in.

I won’t go on about it anymore as Guide Dogs have an article about it on their website which describes the training better than I can. I will say it was a fun filled and very enjoyable couple of days and I can’t wait to return as a visitor to experience even more of what the museum has to offer.

Link to article: Australian National Museum Training

Sydney Trip

In one of my more recent posts I mentioned that Wiley and I had been off travelling again. We went to Sydney for a couple of days for work. I had a fantastic time, met and worked with some great people and had fun exploring the area we were staying in.

When I get to my destination I always need to know a couple of things

  • Where I can take Wiley to go to the toliet
  • Where there is a bin where I can dispose of the results of a toliet run
  • The closest cafe or place to get something to eat and drink

Once these things are sorted I feel a lot more comfortable knowing that our basic needs can be met.

I was fortunate that there was a lovely cafe close to where I was staying, we made frequent use of it during our three day stay. The staff were all so warm and helpful, welcoming but not making a fuss of Wiley. They also had some great vegetarian menu options so I was able to try a couple of different dishes.

On this particular trip I realised I had forgotten to bring some lunch time carrots for Wiley. Luckily there was a supermarket close to our cafe so armed with directions Wiley and I went off on an adventure.

We found our way to the veggie section but I asked a fellow customer for some assistance in actually locating the carrots. They thought it was rather odd I was buying them for the dog but once they saw how keen Wiley was in them they understood that yes carrot is a treat. (He is a lab afterall!)

I couldn’t help but pick up some chocolate for myself while we were there. Wiley is pretty good at locating the confectionary aisle and on this occassion got it on his second attempt. I used my nifty Digit Eye’s App to make sure I purchased my favourite brand and type and we happily made our way to the checkout.

It was then an easy task of retracing our steps back to the cafe and then to our room. I had such a feeling of achievement when we safely arrived back at our room. Wiley was happy because he got to eat his carrot!

Happy Easter

Happy Easter from Wiley and I. We had our Easter celebrations early this year with the family getting together on Good Friday. It was lovely catching up with everyone and look what my gorgeous nieces made for us.

Easter Cupcakes made by Abbey and Bridget with chocolate bunny and egg decorations

Easter Cupcakes with chocolate bunny and egg decorations made by my neices

Many thanks to the wonderful Abbey for taking the photo using my camera which thanks to it having VOice Over on was rather tricky to operate.

Travelling with a Guide Dog

Wiley and I have had a busy but enjoyable week. There will be a few posts about what we have been up to but I wanted to start by sharing what it is like to travel with a Guide Dog.

Our latest trip was a flight to Sydney for work. We were scheduled to depart Monday afternoon. I think I have mentioned before that it is difficult to pack light when you are travelling with a Guide Dog. My bag was again full of things for Wiley, I wanted to make sure he had everything he needed while we were away.

I have equipped myself with some great luggage. I have my usual over the shoulder bag/treat pouch, another over the shoulder laptop bag and a big backpack. What this means is that I can carry everything whilst still leaving my right hand free to give hand signals to Wiley while he is working.

I caught the bus from Yass into Canberra where mum and dad picked me and took me to their place so I could do some work before heading out to the airport to catch my flight. Mum and Dad dropped us off at the airport about an hour before our flight. I always like to make sure there is plenty of time for check in just in case there is an issue with me taking Wiley on board.

As we had flown several times before Wiley easily guided me into the terminal and took me over to the QANTAS area of the airport. A QANTAS staff member approached us to ask if we need assistance and they took us over to the check in counter.

I confirmed Wiley had a seat allocated to him and checked my big back pack so I didn’t have to carry it around anymore. I was asked if I needed assistance to get to the departure gate. I asked what the gate number was, it was one we usually fly from so I said we’d be fine to get there ourselves. It was really lovely being asked if I wanted assistance rather than having the assumption made I needed help.

Wiley and I made our way to security, another helpful staff member helped me put everything on the conveyor belt. We stepped through the screening arch together and as expected we set off the alarm thanks to all the metal on Wiley’s harness. I stepped off to the side for a pat down (nice to be the one patted rather than Wiley). Again someone helped by collecting all my gear from the conveyor belt and we were on our way.

We found the gate and I listened to an audio book until it was time to pre-board. The flight to Sydney was uneventful, Wiley was very settled, happily ate his treats during take off and landing and spent the rest of the flight snoozing. Here is a photo of him waiting for take off.

Wiley on the floor at my feet on a plane

Wiley on the floor at my feet on a plane

As per the usual protocol we waited and disembarked last. I was met by airport staff who kindly took me to the baggage collection area, found my bag and escorted us to the taxi rank. I used the follow command so Wiley went wherever they did making things nice and easy.

I took a taxi to the campus where I was going to be staying for the next couple of days. I had arranged to meet the course convenor our the front and they took me to my room, described the layout and left us there so I could get settled in and most importantly feed Wiley.

After a couple of great days it was time to head back to the airport. I had just gotten into the taxi when I received an email saying my flight was delayed. It was a little disheartening to know I was going to have an almost four hour wait for my flight.

Once we got to the airport I sought assistance as I didn’t know where the QANTAS check in desk was located. On check in I was very kindly offered entry into the QANTAS Club which I gratefully accepted. We had an escort through security and into the lounge where we were well looked after by some lovely QANTAS club staff as well as other travellers.

There were lots of questions about Wiley which along with my audio book helped to pass the time. My biggest concern was the fact Wiley was going to be fed really late. I thought the best thing was to give him a small dinner portion and then feed him the rest when we got home. I always have at least one and sometimes two spare meals to deal with these types of situations. The small portion was enough to keep him from being too unhappy and settled during our long wait but wasn’t enough to cause tummy issues when flying.

Again we pre boarded and someone came to collect us from the lounge. Unfortunately there was a bit of a mix up with the seat allocation so I had to move seats, I was very surprised when we were given a seat at the bulk head in business class. There was so much room we both became a bit disorientated. We quickly figured out how he could safely remain in one spot and be given treats so he was happy and I had a lovely comfy seat to enjoy during the flight. Here is a photo of Wiley in business class, thought I’d better take a picture as it is likely to be the only time we travel business class!

Wiley travelling in business class on a QANTAS jet

Wiley travelling in business class

Our disembarkation was a little different to usual, normally Wiley and I walk down the stairs but on this occasion there was a person who required wheelchair assistance on the flight so we used a portable lift thingy which was an interesting experience.  It was a little loud and unsteady but Wiley was a good boy and laid down as it was moving. I love having a food motivated dog who is easily rewarded so I can create a positive experience during potentially scary experiences.

My wonderful parents were there to meet us (I had told them the flight was delayed) even though by this time is was past 10PM. I have never been so happy to get back to my parents, where I fed Wiley, took him out to toilet and then fell exhausted into bed.

The great thing about this particular trip was that I gained confidence in our ability to cope with change. It will give me more confidence the next time we fly.

Testing Wiley’s new camera harness and our day at an Expo

It has been a busy couple of days for Wiley and I.

On Wednesday we made the trek into town as we needed to go into the Guide Dog  office at Deakin. While I was there the lovely CLO helped me fit the new camera harness I purchased for Wiley. The idea is to shoot some footage with a Go Pro camera so viewers can get a dogs perspective of guiding.

I am not really sure how it turned out, I have included a short video to this post. The clip is of myself and Wiley walking back into the office.

I spent Thursday night with my parents as I was booked to help staff the Guide Dog NSW/ACT at a Seniors expo at Throughgood Park the next day. When I have subsequent days of work in Canberra it is easier to stay with mum and dad. It saves a couple of long bus trips. It is also lovely spending time with them and I can give dad a morning off from walking their wee dog.

Thursday morning after a few navigational mishaps (i.e. getting lost) Wiley and I finally found the Guide Dog stall at the Seniors Expo, where we were scheduled to spend most of the day. As I usually do when I know I am lost I sought assistance from a passerby.

It was a wonderful day, I spoke to lots of great people, did a little bit of networking promoted the Guide Dog speaker program and generally had fun. We were near the stage so I had a little dance with Wiley when the live musician was performing.

I think Wiley enjoyed himself, especially as Alfie,  the ACT’s latest recruit – a Guide Dog Ambassador dog was there to share the patting duties. Wiley and Alfie get on very well, Alfie is still a young dog so he puts a bit of pep into the usually very sedate Wiley.

We finished up at the expo around 2:30 and headed into the city to meet up with a friend before getting the bus back home to Yass. It was a long but very enjoyable day.

Yesterday I had quite a bit of work to catch up on so Wiley had the day off, sleeping in his bed in the study. We had a couple of lovely walks as the weather has finally cooled down making exercise a lot more pleasant.

Below is a short clip of our camera harness trial walk, If it works I hope there will be more to post in the future.

NDIS Information Session

Today Wiley and I walked up to the Yass Soldiers Club to listen to an NDIS Information Session. The NDIS is due to start rolling out across NSW in July this year. The ACT has been a trial site and will have full roll out by the end of June. As I moved from ACT to NSW I am now part of the NSW roll out.

Things are going to be different in NSW, the biggest change is the role of Local Area Co-ordination centres (LAC). They will assist people to access the NDIS with the application and plan preparation. Once someone has been accepted as a participant of the NDIS the LAC will assist with the implementation their plan.

The NDIS will be available in Southern NSW from July. People who are currently receiving NSW disability services will transition first. Uniting will be providing the Local Area Co-ordintation support.

The main question I wanted answered was when people like myself who do not currently receive disability supports are likely to be able to apply. On the NDIS website it states people who currently do not receive supports can access the scheme from July 2018, although there is scope for some people to join the scheme from July 2016.

I was informed that at the moment there is no direction on how earlier access will be determined, that information will hopefully be available on the NDIS website sometime later this month.  I am very fortunate as all my current support needs are covered. My plan for the moment is to  wait and access the NDIS in July 2018. That way people who have a more urgent need for support can go first.

I was a little disappointed that despite advising my requirement for accessible information when I registered for the session no accessible information was available. I was offered a printed agenda which was of no use to me. I hope the presenters read out all the information included on the slides but I am not 100% sure as I didn’t have a copy to refer to. At least there was an opportunity to ask questions.

Wiley was very well behaved, sleeping the whole time as usual. It wasn’t exactly hard work getting to and from the venue as like most things it was only a few minutes walk from home. It was nice to get out of the house for a while and have the opportunity to meet other Yass residents, everyone is always so friendly.