Mobility aids & training
It’s never too late or too early to seek help and training from Guide Dogs Queensland. Orientation and Mobility services are provided through Guide Dogs Queensland’s Rehabilitation Services Department.
It is here that Queenslanders of all ages who are blind or vision impaired make contact with our team of Orientation and Mobility Instructors by way of self-referral or through health professionals, community agencies, family members and friends.
The association provides the following services statewide, and free of charge:
- Guide Dog Mobility
- White Cane Training
- Electronic Travel Aid training
- Adaptive Technology
- School Holiday Camps
- Young Peoples Programs
- Counselling Retreats
- Low Vision Support Groups
- Low Vision Clinics
- Community and Professional Workshops and Mobility Expos.
Our Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Instructors work closely with each client building up their confidence, taking into account their strengths, abilities and individual learning styles.
Our Rehabilitation Services team is at the forefront of this field and offers expert advice and support on the latest range of electronic mobility aids available on the global market. Specially designed programs are held onsite at our Client Residence regularly throughout the year, providing training on ETAs such as the UltraCane, Miniguide and GPS Trekker.
Guide Dogs Queensland can also provide advice and support for a wide range of new technology and practical aids to help people who are blind and vision impaired in the home, at work or out shopping. The association continues to trial a wide range of new electronic devices to ensure services remain at the forefront of Orientation and Mobility training.
Orientation is the process of using one’s senses to establish and maintain your position and relationship to all other significant objects in your surroundings or environment.
Mobility is the process of moving from one point to another – safely and efficiently.
Orientation training helps develop knowledge of traffic flow, street and shop, layouts and communication.
Orientation and mobility training helps you develop knowledge, skills and strategies to safely move through environments such as busy traffic crossings, streets and shop layouts. It also teaches you how to communicate effectively and with confidence in case you need to request or decline help.
The training helps to develop your sensory abilities such as hearing, touch and where possible any residual vision. Training will often involve the use of specific aids, such as the Long Cane, Support Cane or the latest in Electronic Travel Aids such as the Miniguide, GPS Trekker, GPS Trekker Breeze or UltraCane.
The Long Cane: The most common type of cane is the Long Cane, and it now comes in all shapes, sizes and colours. Like our Guide Dogs, canes are matched to a client’s needs and include the basic support cane or identification cane to canes designed for the outdoor and active lifestyles. The vast majority of Guide Dogs Queensland’s clients use a White Cane as their primary mobility aid.
The Guide Dog: The decision to use a Guide Dog is one based on lifestyle. Not everyone wants the responsibility of a dog and there is much to consider in taking this option. Guide Dogs are carefully selected to match each client’s lifestyle, travel and physical needs. It’s an involved process that considers both the person and the dog. To read more about the Guide Dog training and matching process click here.
Electronic Travel Aids: An Electronic Travel Aid (ETA) is a form of assistive technology with the purpose of improving mobility for a person with vision impairment.
Miniguide: A hand-held sonar aid, the Miniguide is a popular secondary mobility aid for many of our clients. The discreet device gives information about obstacles above waist height by a vibration or sound alert.
The UltraCane: Guide Dog Queensland is the official distributor in the Australasian region for this technologically advanced electronic travel aid.
The cane was developed in the United Kingdom, by Foresight Sound, and uses ultrasonic echoes – based on a navigational process used by bats, called echolocation – to send information to the user about the location of objects in front of and above them.
GPS Trekker/ GPS Trekker Breeze: Designed in Canada, the Humanware Trekker is a hand-held GPS navigational system. The device includes talking digital maps and menus to help the user pinpoint their exact location and the real-time information on their surroundings.
Adaptive Technology: Clients attending residential programs can learn about and trial the most up-to-date adaptive technology options available to assist people who are blind or vision impaired.
These services are delivered through residential programs at our Client Residence in Brisbane and in your home environment.
The Client Residence offers private rooms with ensuites, a communal dining and lounge area, with TV, games and computer workstation. Trained residential carers also provide overnight assistance, if needed.
Each person who comes to Guide Dogs Queensland is assessed for services and support programs that best suit their lifestyle and skill level. Those interested in using a Guide Dog are referred to Guide Dog Services where they assessed for suitability.
The decision to use a Guide Dog is one based on lifestyle. There is much more to consider in taking on the responsibility of the dog regarding this mobility option.
Clients must pass an assessment process and we recommend be able to use a long cane and have received orientation and mobility training.
Working with a Guide Dog
As well as training our Guide Dogs, we also train people. Before taking on a Guide Dog, clients must be able to use a Long Cane and have received Orientation and Mobility training (O&M). Long Cane and O&M programs will help build your confidence to move independently, as well as provide useful knowledge of your home area and routes you need to travel. Such skills will make training with a Guide Dog considerably easier.
This stage requires commitment and a great deal of courage to overcome the fear and uncertainty of placing your trust in the ability of a dog to guide you. However, thanks to the experience, skill and understanding of our Guide Dog Mobility Instructors (GDMI) it’s a challenge many Queenslanders, of all ages, who are blind and vision impaired, have taken on with great success.
Our Guide Dogs are selected to carefully match each client’s lifestyle and travel needs. Our Guide Dogs, and their training, like all of our services, are provided to Queenslanders free of charge.
After an initial enquiry, application and early assessment is completed, the actual matching process will begin by looking at a client’s mobility requirements, environment, and physical ability. This will take place in either a short residential program at our Client Residence in Bald Hills, or as a home visit for our more experienced Guide Dog Users.
During this process, clients will be given the opportunity to meet and walk with Guide Dogs that our GDMIs believe may best suit. Once matched, training as a working team will begin, this may include an intensive residential program, at Bald Hills, where the client will develop skills to handle the Guide Dog in a wide range of situations that may be encountered when working and socially.
Much of the training takes place outdoors in different environments, and the client will learn how to start, stop, and change speed and direction with the Guide Dog. Together, the bond and trust builds, and the working team learns how to best to employ its training to avoid obstacles; cross roads; navigate routes; find destinations and use public transport, safely and independently.
Training also includes learning how to best care for the Guide Dog, in and out of harness, such as grooming, diet, and providing plenty of playtime and exercise. The final training process with a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor takes up to a month, including the residential program at Bald Hills and training in their home and community. For more information on our breeding and training of Guide Dogs click here.
For many of our clients, their first encounter with Guide Dogs Queensland is with our full-time psychologist who helps them and their families adjust to life with vision impairment. Contact can be done by way of self-referral or through health professionals, community agencies, family members and friends – and all of our services, including counselling, are provided free to clients. Our counselling services; Low Vision Clinics and support groups are designed to not only increase a person’s independence in mobility but, just as importantly, overcome the isolation that can often come with losing sight. These services also promote social, emotional and physical well-being. Rehabilitation Counselling is provided to help clients and their families understand and adjust to life with vision loss. It can also improve client’s personal and social development. Counselling retreats at Bald Hills are also offered throughout the year, with clients staying in our Client Residence at Bald Hills.
Low Vision Support Groups
GDQ helps establish and promote support groups for people with vision impairment. Currently, Guide Dogs Queensland assists more than 29 support groups throughout the State, by providing up-to-date information, services and advice. Some of the Brisbane groups also use Guide Dogs Queensland’s Client Services as their meeting base. These Support Groups provide people, who have experienced vision loss, with an opportunity to meet and share thoughts and ideas with others who are blind or vision impaired.
Low Vision Clinics
The association participates in a variety of multi-disciplinary teams associated with Low Vision Clinics. The teams often include our O&M Instructors, Optometrists, Occupational Therapists, Social Workers and Ophthalmologists and occur throughout the State. The Low Vision Clinics can provide advice on a wide range of new technology and practical aids that assist in the home, at work or out shopping. The clinics are a perfect opportunity to trial this new technology in a comfortable environment, with no obligation to buy – and to take your time to find the best tool to meet your needs.
Education, Awareness & Advocacy
Guide Dogs Queensland conducts a variety of community and professional education workshops about vision impairment. These can be adapted to medical and paramedical professionals, vision impairment program staff, carers, HAAC workers and school teachers. Our expert staff members also consult for and advocate on behalf of Queensland’s blind and vision impaired community in a number of government, educational and public sectors. A Mobility Expo, in the Guide Dogs Queensland Client Residence, is held every year during Disability Action Week to help promote and educate on the wide range of services available to people with low or no vision. For more information please contact Guide Dogs Queensland.
Helping children live a better life
Our experienced Rehabilitation Services staff can start liaising with the families and carers of vision impaired or blind children from a very young age – providing early counselling, resource and support information. Initial mobility training and orientation skills can start as early as pre-school.
Our instructors and staff will incorporate play and exploration activities that are fun, safe and show them how to develop their remaining senses and concept development. There are special adaptive canes and mobility devices for our young clients, with ‘kiddy canes’ introduced at about six years of age – though this depends on the individual.
Guide Dogs Queensland delivers its Special Education programs within school environments, community settings, at home and on Guide Dogs Queensland’s holiday camps.
Our instructors can work one on one with children, who have low or no vision, through school outreach programs, before or after school.
Our group programs also allow our younger clients to take part in week-long stays at GDQ’s Client Residence. Private rooms are provided, with a communal dining and lounge area, and trained residential carers to deliver overnight care.
The programs are designed to build young people’s confidence, promote social interaction, create new friendships and build necessary Orientation and Mobility skills. These programs and camps are free to all young Queenslanders, who have low or no vision, and contact with Guide Dogs Queensland can be made by way of self-referral, or through health professionals, community agencies, family members or friends.
For more information about our Special Education or Young Adult Camps please contact Guide Dogs Queensland.
Companion Assistance Dogs
Dogs make excellent companions for humans, helping lift moods and reduce stress. The bond that forms between dog and owner is unique and can assist with building a positive attitude, confidence and independence in the handler.
Guide Dogs Queensland provides Companion Assistance Dogs to assist individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other health-related conditions who may benefit from the services of a companion dog. These dogs can act as a bridge between the user and society, assisting to reduce stress by helping to calm and ease anxiety.
Companion Assistance Dogs can help users participate in social, educational and leisure activities by reducing the stress of new adventures, social interactions and changes to environment.
Autism Assistance Dogs
The love, trust and companionship that forms between a child and their dog is unique and special. This bond can help change the way a child looks at and approaches life.
For families living with Autism, the unconditional love of a qualified Autism Assistance Dog can make a significant change to the way everyday activities are carried out, helping build independence and confidence in a child while reducing stress for the family.
Guide Dogs Queensland provides Autism Assistance Dogs to families who have a child with Autism between the ages of 6-10 (outside this age range will be considered on a case-by-case basis). These dogs act as a bridge between the child and society, assisting to reduce the child’s stress by helping to calm and ease frustration.
The dog may also interrupt repetitive-type behaviours in the child and offer a sense of achievement when new outcomes are experienced.
Guide Dogs Queensland provides Companion Dogs to families who have a child or family member with a disability or to people who may benefit from a dog around the home.
Although these dogs do not have public access they can greatly assist the family by providing comfort, therapy both physical and mental by daily interaction of grooming, playing, or stroking as well as promoting overall wellbeing and communication for family members needing support.
Guide Dogs Queensland provides Companion Dogs to families who have a child or family member with a disability or to people who may benefit from a dog around the home. Although these dogs do not have public access they can greatly assist the family by providing comfort, therapy both physical and mental by daily interaction of grooming, playing, or stroking as well as promoting overall wellbeing and communication for family members needing support.
Guide Dogs Queensland provides Facility Dogs to organisations whose facilities care for people with a disability, aged care or people who may benefit from a dog’s companionship in their daily life. Although these dogs do not have public accessthey can greatly assist by providing comfort, therapy both physical and mental by daily interaction of grooming, playing, or stroking as well as promoting overall wellbeing and communication for people needing support.
Applications are currently open for both Companion and Facility Dogs.
Please note we have a considerable waiting list for Enablement Assistance Dogs and are no longer taking applications at this time.
To find out more about our Enablement Dogs Program, training Assistance Dogs for Autism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other Companion Assistance roles, please contact Guide Dogs Queensland or visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.