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Neil and Jodi meet Yasmin

Niel and Jodi with their new guide dog, Yasmin.

For Neil Roberts, the NDIS represents the first targeted support he and his wife Jodi have received – and it’s already changing their lives for the better.

The pair met at the National Goalball Championship tournament, 23 years ago, she from Preston and he from Ballarat and both playing the position of number 7.

The pair have been inseparable ever since.

When the couple moved from Ballarat, NSW, to Bundaberg in 2012, Neil had sufficient eyesight in to get to know Bundaberg before going almost completely blind. However, it still slowed him down considerably when he lost function, as part of a degenerative condition he was diagnosed with at 30.

“It was a progressive loss. I got my eyes tested at an ophthalmologist, and he said I was legally blind – after I’d driven there in a car,” he said.

“I was working full time and I’d obtained a licence, passing the eye test. But because my condition starts off as tunnel vision, they don’t detect it unless they test your peripheral vision.”

With some cane training and the support of his wife, he learned the skills he would need to traverse the world as a visionally impaired person.

In 2016, the couple heard about the NDIS, and in 2017 they were booked in for their planning conversation with their Local Area Coordinator, IWC.

As part of Neil’s NDIS plan, he has received a seeing eye dog for the first time from Guide Dogs Australia, meaning he can get around more quickly and safely than ever before.

Prior to this he had to rely on a walking cane and a hand-held GPS to get around.

Now, with his guide dog Yasmin, he is able to get to and from the shops in 10 minutes, rather than half an hour.

Yasmin is trained to stop at curbs, negotiate traffic, follow certain verbal commands and give the person she is assisting enough feedback to walk at a confident pace, rather than feeling their way with a cane.

Jodi, who has been visually impaired since she was nine months old, said the NDIS was welcome, given the pair had been reliant on the pension and taxi cards to compensate for their respective conditions.

“It was quite easy – we had been to pre-planning meetings by different groups around town, and asked questions on social media,” Jodi said.

“Because we didn’t have any services at that point, we were just grateful for the help and assistance we’ve received. For us, it’s been a great experience.

“I mean, it’s new. The scheme’s going to grow, so we want to grow with it. I mean, I’ve got friends who are visually impaired with kids who are visually impaired – it’s a hell of a lot easier to be visually impaired than it was 10 years ago.”

Neil agreed: “There’s so much more technical support available – like the trekker breeze, my handheld GPS, can tell me how far the next intersection is. Comparing the ability of visually impaired people now, to years ago, when they’d be stuck at home – it’s brilliant.”

If you have any questions about the NDIS, IWC hosts free information sessions in Bundaberg, Childers and Gin Gin throughout the week.

For more information, contact IWC at 1300 492 492.

About the author

IWC's major focus is to improve and support Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and the vulnerable and disadvantaged people across the Bundaberg and Wide Bay / Burnett.

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Postal address
PO Box 1963
Bundaberg, Qld 4670

184 Barolin St
Bundaberg, Qld 4670
Phone: 1300 492 492
Fax: 07 3009 0478

It’s good to know I can get what I need, not being told when my therapies are, or where I’m going. In the past, that’s how it’s been. As I see it, the NDIS is the only way to go.

Giovanni, NDIS participant