Last Friday Wiley and I went to the Canberra Blind Society to talk to clients and staff about the range of free services provided by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. I had been looking forward to this talk ever since the request popped up in my inbox a couple of months ago.
Normally I write and practice my talks in advance but decided this one would better if it was audience focused. I wanted the content to be relevant to the needs and area of interest of those in attendance. I figured there was no point going on and on about Guide Dogs if people wanted to learn about long canes or visa versa.
I was a little daunted taking this approach as I had around two hours to fill. My back up plan in case there wasn’t any audience participation was to use the time talking about the many different ways Guide Dogs have helped me.
For demonstration purposes I took along a range of different mobility aids, including a selection of canes, mini guide and talking GPS not to mention my favorite aid – the wonderful Wiley.
Fortunately I had a great audience who had lots of questions and an interest in a range of aids. The talking GPS, Guide Dogs and the differences between cane types/tips seemed to make up the bulk of the talk. It was particularly rewarding when other people shared their experiences.
I was also lucky to have a lovely local Orientation and Mobility and Guide Dog instructor drop in to listen to the talk. They not only fielded some of the questions but also took on the spot referrals.
Something I didn’t expect were the questions on how I handle dealing with the general public, friends and family. It seems that a workshop on self advocacy, effective communication and setting boundaries could be useful. I am hopeful this is something Guide Dogs might be able to organise for later in the year. I’d love to be involved if they do.
Wiley slept through most of the talk but did wake up when another Guide Dog entered the room. He quickly settled again, showing exactly how a Guide dog needs to behave. When we were leaving he was a little distracted by the other dog and instructor. I think he thought he was back in training and under assessment again. This always throws him off, the same thing tends to happen during follow ups if he sees the instructor before we start. I took his lead in my right hand to show him I’d noticed he wasn’t focusing on his job. Doing that seems to jolt him out of his distraction and help him get back to work.
This was one of my all time favorite talks. If just one person seeks assistance from Guide Dogs and benefits from increased safety, confidence and mobility then I’d consider it a real success.