New low vision clinic in Wingham encourages early intervention

Wingham Eyecare's Optometrist Dennis Smith tries on a special pair of magnifying glasses
Wingham Eyecare's Optometrist Dennis Smith tries on a special pair of magnifying glasses

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has joined forces with Wingham Eyecare to launch a new Low Vision Clinic for Manning residents having trouble with everyday things like reading, hobbies or getting around because of vision loss from eye conditions like macular degeneration, glaucoma and stroke.

The clinic offers a consultation with experienced Wingham Eyecare optometrist Dennis Smith, while Guide Dogs Orientation and Mobility Instructors will assess what the person might need to help them get around independently.

“The clinic is an extension of our holistic approach to eye care to ensure people with low vision have access to services that will enable them to maintain their quality of life,” said Mr Smith.

Medicare will cover the optometrist consultation, while the assessment from Guide Dogs is provided free of charge, like all the organisation’s services.

Jeremy Hill, regional manager for Guide Dogs across Northern NSW, said the low vision clinic aimed to encourage people to seek help early to maintain their independence.

“By making low vision services accessible to country areas like Wingham, we’re hoping people will seek our assistance sooner rather than later,” said Mr Hill.

“We want people to stay safe when getting around and avoid falls and accidents that are often associated with vision loss.”

Guide Dogs will have a range of aids including electronic hand-held and desktop magnifiers to help with reading, text-to-speech devices and screen reading software available at the clinic.

The clinic is the fifth that Guide Dogs has established on the Mid-North Coast in the last two years, with others being run in conjunction with local optometrists in Nambucca, Macksville, Grafton and Yamba.

For Burrells Creek resident Phyllis Wells, who is a patient at Wingham Eyecare, the Wingham Low Vision Clinic offers the opportunity to check the vision in her right eye, which can be ‘fuzzy’ since she had a stroke in April.

Not one to let challenges stop her, Mrs Wells has worked out strategies to cope with her fuzzy vision and she has also had her mobility assessed by Guide Dogs.

“I’m keen to do whatever I can to find solutions so I can stay as independent as possible,” says Mrs Wells.

Research predicts that as the population ages, the number of people across NSW and the ACT over 40 experiencing vision loss is going to increase by 20 per cent to 120,000 by 2020.

To make an appointment for the Wingham Low Vision Clinic, which will be officially launched on Thursday, please contact Wingham Eyecare on 6557 0258.

If required, Guide Dogs can assist with transportation to and from the clinic.