Harper's Newsletter

NDIS petition

A big Thank you to all my supporters for signing the “Guide Dogs Australia NDIS: A Vision for All” petition. The full story and others are in this newsletter.

Some people say that doggie years equate to seven human years. Now that I have reached the double figure of 10 years, does it mean that I am now 70 years old? Just as well they say ‘you are as young as you feel’. I certainly feel quite young. My guide dog Instructor told Lindy that once I slow down too much and can’t keep up with her, then she will need to consider retiring me. I am not quite ready to stay home and miss out on going to interesting places and meeting all those wonderful people. So, to fix this, I have started to walk faster and even break into a jog whenever we go for a walk in the park. Lindy sometimes has trouble keeping up with me and has to tell me to slow down!

Some of the exciting things we have done and those coming up are in this issue:

– Named Ambassador for the Radio 2RPH
– Glebe Street Fair – Sunday 18th November 2012
– Positive Outlook for cure for blindness
– Guide Dogs NDIS: A Vision for All Petition

Named Ambassador to the Radio Station 2RPH

Lindy accepted the role as the Ambassador for Radio Station 2RPH earlier this year. Radio 2RPH began broadcasting in Sydney in 1983 for people who were print handicapped. Now nearly 30 years later, its audience also includes those who do not have time to read. Overseas listeners and those who live outside Sydney and Newcastle areas can keep up to date with Australia newspapers and magazines through streaming on the Radio 2RPH website.

You will be pleased to know that Lindy’s role as ambassador is to help increase the public awareness about the wonderful work that the radio station is doing, rather than having to help operate it. Can you imagine the size of the panel in the operation room if I have to use my doggie paws to operate it!

Apart from Sydney, there are also RPH stations in most capital cities in Australia. They are 1RPH, 3RPH etc.

Glebe Street Fair Sunday 18th November

I look forward to attending the Glebe Street Fair. What better place for a Labrador Guide Dog to be than a place where there will be plenty of food and kids! The fair promises to have ”Fabulous food, stalls, kids’ rides, entertainment”!

The Fair will take place along Glebe Point Road, between Parramatta and Bridge Roads. The broadcasting studio for radio 2RPH is at the centre of the fair. A stand will be set up in front of the studio and it will be open to the public. Lindy and I will help ‘man’ the stand. We have been invited to go on centre stage to help promote the great work that the radio 2RPH is doing.

For all our friends and supporters who live in the Sydney region, please come over and have a catch up coffee with us. We will be at the Fair between 10am and 4pm. We will even show you around the studio and the food stalls!

Positive Outlook for cure for Blindness

Lindy and I attended the recent Retina Australia Congress. The keynote speaker was Professor Robin Ali from UK. He presented the most up to date developments in Gene Therapies and Stem cell therapy for Retinal Degeneration in UK. Human trials have been carried out with some success both in the UK as well as other countries. Some of the other topics presented were Bionic Eye Progress; Australian Inherited Retinal Disease Register and DNA Bank progress; and Delay of photo receptor degeneration.

There were a few other scientific papers but I got a little lost in those. During the conference, there were a lot of talk about rats so I think it would have been more appropriate if it was a cat convention. It took me a while to realize that rats with different numbers carry different types of defective retina Genes and they are helping those scientists to find a cure for Lindy and others like her.

The conference also had many interesting and practical sessions, such as working in the kitchen, & sighted guide skills. It was great to see that the professors and other Ophthalmologists went to the ”What it is like to be blind?” session.

The best part of the conference was to catch up with all my Guide Dog work mates and compare notes about our handlers.

Although a treatment and cure is not ready for Lindy and others, progress has been made. When Lindy was first diagnosed some 16 years ago, they were only working with rats. Now human trials have been taken place. Success so far has provided light perception for those just about totally blind. The treatment and cure to provide full vision is still a way off

An attendee who is affected by the condition summed up the conference:
“My understanding from this conference is the Genetic Register and the DNA research will identify exactly what gene defect we have. We will preserve our remaining vision through the research in slowing the degeneration. The Gene Therapy will allow us to regenerate retinal cells from our remaining cells. The Stem cell research will grow our retinal cells if we don’t have any left. The Bionic Eye will give us vision if we can’t produce the cells to do the job.”

Retina Australia along with its members are committed to raise funds to support researchers to find cure for all the genetic degenerative retina conditions.

My Guide Dogs friends and I do not mind losing our jobs when cure is found!

Guide Dogs NDIS: A Vision for All Petition

Monday 15th October was the International White Cane Day. Lindy and I along with the CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and Victoria, Guide Dogs staff and other White Cane users presented a petition to the Federal Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin, at the Parliament House.

Over the last few months, Guide Dogs Australia had been collecting signatures for the petition from all over Australia, to ensure mobility and orientation training will be included in the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme).

I thought I would share Lindy’s speech to the minister with you.

“Minister and fellow Australians

I am sure each and every one of us here has lost something precious sometime in our life.

That we are here today proves that losing something precious does not stop us from getting on with our life.

Imagine losing your sight and not being able to watch the Paralympic games, not able to see your children or your niece’s and nephew’s face!

As Sally mentioned earlier, I started to lose my sight over 20 years ago. I lost my driver’s license 16 years ago. I can no longer see what my nieces and nephews look like.

The loss of independence is probably the worst aspect of sight loss. Can you imagine that you can’t go anywhere unless someone takes you! Imagine that when you go to the shopping centre, you can’t snake off somewhere to buy your loved one a gift without your carer knowing! Imagine yourself being a teenager and you can’t get around the school without a carer taking you around.

Fortunately for me, through the mobility and orientation training from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT , I was able to learn to use the long cane to get around. Then my Guide Dog Harper started to guide me nine years ago.

We have travelled on planes, buses, trains and taxis. Some of his favourite places are butchers and coffee shops!!.

When I travel overseas for competition, I take the skinny Harper instead, which is also known as Long Cane.

Although I can’t see my nieces & nephews’ faces, I can go to the shopping centre on my own and buy them their birthday present without asking a member of my family to take me, as I have Harper to guide me.

Having independent means increases self confidence as well as self worth.

Through the work of Guide Dogs Australia, many vision-impaired people are able to fully participate in the community and make fully use of our ability to contribute to the society.

Minister, on behalf of the Vision Impaired people in Australia, I ask you to ensure that the orientation and mobility training is included in the NDIS.

The petition that was handed to you shows that there is great public support on this matter.

Thank You”.

That’s about it for this month’s message from the Black Labrador.

Remember: “Science advances by people who are prepared to look outside the square.”