At 23, Ebony has never known life without vision impairment.
When she was just two years old and starting to walk, Ebony started running into things. Concerned something might be wrong, her parents sought medical advice and soon after she was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that affects the retina and causes severe vision impairment.
Thankfully, she still had enough sight to experience a relatively normal childhood and get around like most other kids her age. But her world was quickly turned upside down when her vision suddenly deteriorated when she was just 16 years old.
“I was in denial about my sight for a long time and even when my vision got a lot worse, I really denied the fact that I couldn’t see, probably up until I was about 18,” Ebony explained.
“I would literally try to pretend that I could see. For a while I got away with it because I had enough sight left to be able to get around, but then when my sight started to decrease more and more, I had to accept it. I knew if I didn’t, it would just make my situation so much harder for me.”
Ebony was left with less than 1% of her vision. Even worse, because she lost so much of her sight, she developed nystagmus, a condition that causes her eyes to shake, making her constantly feel like she’s on a rollercoaster ride.
When Ebony reached the point where she could no longer pretend she was able to see, she had no choice but to learn to use mobility aids like a white cane to help her get around. As if this wasn’t hard enough to come to terms with, she then had to deal with the hurtful things people would say when she was out in public.
“People would point at it and be like ‘Oh look at that blind girl with the stick’ or a lot of the time they wouldn’t even believe I was blind and would think I was just faking it,” she said.
“It’s still difficult now but when I was younger it was especially hard to have people staring at me all the time. I really didn’t like that. And the comments people made when they thought I was faking being blind were just really hurtful.”
Ebony grew to resent using her cane. It limited the way she was able to live her life and she hated how she felt when using it because of the unwanted attention it drew to her.
“When I use my cane, it doesn’t make me feel as confident and it really shows. I used to avoid using my cane at any cost but when I lost more sight, I had to use it more, or it became really difficult for me to get around.
“That’s when I started feeling like the independence and freedom I’d always felt I’d had before were now missing from my life.”
Like many other young women her age, Ebony loves going out with her family and friends and has developed a passion for living a healthy and active lifestyle.
But unlike other young women, she is forced to rely heavily on others to get to where she needs to go safely. She even requires support just to be able to exercise, as her cane does not provide her with the level of mobility and awareness of her surroundings she needs.
Ebony is now waiting for a Guide Dog to be trained to help her find her independence again and reach her full potential. Your support will help Ebony experience the freedom that she deserves as a young woman with the world at her feet.
We need to ensure every Guide Dog we train is the best of the best, but with each dog’s training journey costing over $35,000, we always have Queenslanders like Ebony waiting to be matched with one of our life-changing companions. This is why your continued support is so important to us.
Guide Dog-in-training ‘Hollie’ is one of the dogs in our program who we believe will be Ebony’s perfect match.
‘Hollie’ is a beautiful black Labrador Retriever with a lovely temperament and a strong willingness to work, that truly has the potential to change Ebony’s life. We want to pair them together to create an incredible partnership, but we can’t do it without you.
Every young person deserves the opportunity to experience all that life has to offer. With ‘Hollie’ by her side, a world of possibilities will be opened up for Ebony at long last.
Please donate today to help us change Ebony’s life and the lives of other young Queenslanders by allowing them to experience a brighter future with a Guide Dog by their side.
Update: Thanks to our generous supporters, we were able to match Ebony with ‘Hollie’ and create an incredible partnership that has changed both of their lives forever. Unfortunately there are still many young Queenslanders just like Ebony waiting to receive a Guide Dog to provide the independence they need to open up their future. Find out how you can support them here.