January Plans

I have just had a look at what’s in my calendar for the next month. For some reason I thought it would be a quiet start to the year, instead I realised that there is quite a lot happening.

There are a number of meetings and staff training commitments at work. I am particularly looking forward to attending a workshop on public speaking and learning more about the different GPS applications.

I’ll spend a little extra time in the office as Jo and I have a couple of projects we are working on. As usual the awesome Jo is doing the lions share of the work but I hope I can be of some assistance.

There are a couple of talks scheduled. The first is a training session for new Bus drivers. I am looking forward to catching up with the trainers, I’m also keen to hear if any decision has been made about the proposed new policy of allowing animals on ACTION buses

Mid month I have an appointment to do a talk for a school holiday program. Wiley will love this one as I am sure there will be plenty of children wanting to say hi and give him a pat (once I have taken his harness off!). It is a great opportunity to reinforce the ‘please don’t pat a working guide dog message’. When  I have ventured out recently there have been lots of children wanting to pat Wiley. I’m not surprised as it happens every school holidays. I am heartened that just about everybody asks, it gives me a chance to hand out one of Wiley’s cards and explain why they shouldn’t distract him. Even better is when children or parents tell others not to pat a guide dog – I love that the message is getting out into the general public.

Apart from some early morning walks there aren’t too many social catch ups organised. This is normal for January as it is a little hot to be heading out all the time.

Feeling a wee bit weary

It is starting to feel a lot like summer, today it is expected to get to 35 degrees. At the moment Wiley is flat out asleep on the tiled floor wearing his cooling bandana. Thankfully it isn’t too uncomfortable inside, at least not yet. We had an appointment this morning but didn’t hang around afterwards as I wanted Wiley out of the heat and off the hot pavements ASAP.

Both Wiley and I are feeling a little weary, it isn’t just the heat sapping our energy but rather the result of having lots to do. Since last weeks First Aid course we have.

  • participated in several work meetings relating to upcoming projects and events
  • presented a school talk
  • assisted in a Falls prevention talk
  • enjoyed a lovely dinner event, where I was the guest speaker
  • joined my friend and his guide dog for a coffee and a playdate for the dogs
  • had a catch up with my sister and lunch with my parents
  • started my Christmas shopping
  • run errands
  • attended a technology workshop for VI students where I gave a demonstration with Trekker Breeze, a GPS device but also spoke a bit about working with a Guide Dog
  • and lots of lots of bushwalks

These adventures have taken us the length and breath of Canberra and as far out as Goulburn. Wiley worked incredibly well wherever we went, a lot of the time his job was to lie quietly while I did what I needed to do.  He is very good at guiding but equally good at sleeping!

I don’t think things are going to slow down anytime soon, at least not until closer to Christmas. In the coming weeks I have an interstate trip (Wiley will be going on his first plane -eek!), my nephews 21st birthday, lots of CLO and speaking work and a spattering of social engagements. Bring in on!!

International White Cane Day

Today is International White Cane Day (IWCD), although I have Wiley I still use my white cane everyday. Without my trusty cane I couldn’t take WIley for our much loved recreational walks or Wiley’s toilet breaks.

Each year Guide Dogs NSW/ACT launches an educational campaign to coincide with IWCD. For 2014 the message is “have cane, am able to work’. The campaign aims to encourage employers to consider hiring staff who are blind or vision impaired.

I am fortunate that I am employed in two casual positions. Both my jobs are interesting, rewarding and challenging and I feel they enable me to have a positive impact within the community. Working is important to me and I fully support anything that will help other people who are blind or vision impaired to experience the benefits of employment.

For more information about the campaign please visit http://www.guidedogs.com.au/news-and-events/news/13-10-2014/an-untapped-workforce.


NDIS Pre Planning Workshop

On Thursday Wiley and I attended an NDIS pre planning workshop. I heard about the workshop via the google group managed by the ACT Guide Dog office. I thought it would be worth attending both for my personal benefit as well as being well informed for my new position.

The  workshops were being held in two locations on several different days over a couple of weeks. I requested attending the one at the NDIS office on Northborne Avenue near the city. This is on my regular bus route which made it very convenient.

The bus timetable meant I was going to be early which was good as it gave me plenty of time to not only find the correct building but also figure out where I needed to go when I reached the NDIA office.

I had pre programmed the address as a user point of interest in my Mobile GEO device. When I got on the bus I asked the driver to let me know when we were at the closest bus stop. Once Wiley and I got off the bus I turned the GPS on, listened to what it told me and gave Wiley the command to go right. We walked along the road for a while but when we reached the next intersection I thought we had gone too far. I gave Wiley the back command and started to walk the way we had just come.

Fortunately I found someone to ask which number along Northbourne Avenue we were standing outside of. It turned out the GPS was a little off and we had gone past the correct building. Following the directions given to me I asked Wiley to find right, he took me up a path and stopped at the steps outside a building. When I heard someone behind me I checked with them that we were at the right place which we were.

I gave Wiley the forward command, we went up the steps and he took me to the automatic doors leading into the building. Once there I was completely lost and had no idea where to go so I couldn’t give Wiley any commands. I should have emailed and asked for more information about where I needed to go once I arrived.

It turned out the person I asked if I was at the right building was also going to the workshop so Wiley was able to follow them. We went to the lift, when we exited the lift Wiley took me to a door but it was locked. The door we needed was on the other side of the foyer. The workshop co-ordinator heard us and opened the door – we had arrived – phew!

We entered the room and Wiley took me to a chair. Myself and the other gentlemen were the first to arrive so they were all empty. After I sat down I praised Wiley, gave him a treat, he then promptly crashed out and quietly slept through the whole presentation.

I was pleasantly surprised when the co-ordinator gave me a good description of the room layout without being asked. I was also told that I would be emailed a copy of the handouts as I couldn’t access the printed ones. I haven’t received these yet so will have to chase them up next week. As expected the NDIA staff were well educated about Guide Dog etiquette.

The workshop was interesting and informative. I think most of the other people in attendance was a carer for someone so we spent a lot of time on questions specific to their concerns.

We were told there was quite a lot of information requested in the application for access to the scheme. I asked if this would be provided in an accessible format as being sent a whole heap of paper in the mail would not be at all useful for me. They said that it should be but I might have to specifically request it.

At the end of the session I gave them my details so I could be put on their database. This means that just before I become eligible for the scheme in January 2016 I should be sent out the access approval documentation. There isn’t anything else I need to do for now.

It was much easier getting out of the building. Wiley and I quickly found our way to the bus stop on the other side of the road so we could catch the bus home.

I am pleased I decided to go. Change is always a little daunting, for me the best way to ease the accompanying anxiety is to be well educated and informed about the changes.

I got the job!

I have some very exciting news to share. I have officially been offered the position of Client Liaison Officer with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. I will be working out of the Canberra office at Deakin. I am job sharing the role and have been employed on a casual basis. I will be doing administration and office work but also hope to get involved with client referral and community liaison work.

By doing the role on a casual basis I can keep up with my speaking role which is very  important to me. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

Wiley has never worked in a office environment before but as all he has to do is get me there and then chill out while I work  I am sure he will love it.

I am looking into getting some more adaptive equipment to help me fulfil the duties of my new role. They include JAWS which is screen reader software that works with windows based systems. Also a pearl camera and OCR software so I can scan printed documents. I think I might also upgrade my home computer to a windows based one so I can use the same system at work and home.

I can’t wait to get started 🙂

The week that was

Happy Bus Travels

Wiley and I have done quite a bit of bus travel this week. We seemed to be getting on and off buses all day long. Most of my bus trips have been extra enjoyable thanks to the company of my fellow passengers. I have had some very  interesting and enjoyable conversations on a whole range of subjects as well as the opportunity to answer lots of questions about vision loss and guide dogs.

I’ve received a number of offers of assistance at the interchanges in finding the correct bay or bus. I appreciate the help each and every time I am offered it but it is especially nice on extra chilly days as I can keep my hand in my warm pocket rather than holding up the number of the bus I wish to catch.

All these positive experiences and interactions with members of the public remind me what a lovely (albeit currently very cold) community Canberra is – well most of the time!

Decision Made – It’s mobile GEO for me!

Tuesday was my last lesson in GPS training. After several months learning how to use both Trekker Breeze and Mobile GEO I finally mastered all the features which meant we could close the program. As with most mobility aids I have lots of practice ahead of me before I am really competent.

After some deliberation I decided Mobile GEO was the best device for my circumstances. I packed up my Trekker Breeze and handed it back to Guide Dogs for someone else to utilize.

Education Talks

This week was all about training. I had both a taxi talk as well as a bus talk. Both were enjoyable with students that seemed particularly engaged and asked lots of questions. I had to keep reminding myself why I was there as I could have gone on and on about many different and somewhat irrelevant tangents.

Wild winter weather

I  jinxed myself writing about our lovely winter walks. Since Monday we have had a run of wet, windy and very cold days and nights. There have been mega blizzards and heaps of snow fall on the mountains and I can feel it each and every time the wind blows.

It hasn’t kept us from enjoying a daily walk but I have had to be selective about the routes we take. Some paths are slipperier than others and in high winds I avoid areas with lots of gum trees. They are notorious for dropping big limbs.

I’ve mentioned before that wind makes crossing roads difficult, Wiley and I have spent much longer than normal waiting to cross a road as the wind has been masking the sound of traffic.

Wiley isn’t at all keen on wearing any type of jacket but in the last week even he has embraced the comfort provided by wet and warm weather gear.

I am really looking forward to the weekend, I have plans to catch up with friends on Saturday and then join the Achilles group for a walk around Lake Ginninderra on Sunday.

Mobile GEO my talking GPS – the Test

One of the main reasons I went to the coast was to test my Mobile GEO skills in a completely unfamiliar area. It was also a trial run for my solo trip to Sydney later in the year. If on this trip I ran into difficulties I had an instructor not too far away to get me out of trouble.

I successfully used most of Mobile GEO’s features. Here are some of the things I did :

  • virtually explore the area before I even arrived. By putting in the address of my motel and then doing a search of points of interest in the area I was able to listen to the route I would need to take to get to McDonalds where I had arranged to meet a friend.
  • record a route as I walked so I could walk it again – a great feature for planning recreational walks with Wiley
  • locate an audio crossing so I could safely cross the main street
  • listen to directions on how to find a destination
  • identify and then locate the walkway onto and off the beach
  • record any location I might want to find again – motel, vet, bus stop, rubbish bin etc

I was very happy with how everything went. To travel independently in a strange area was so empowering. With Mobile GEO as an orientation aid and Wiley as a mobility aid I now feel confident going anywhere without sighted assistance. I say bring on the Sydney trip 🙂 .