RIDBC Quarterly Newsletter - Summer 2016

The RIDBC Quarterly: A quarterly publication of current information about RIDBC (Winter 2016)

In this issue:

  1. From the Chief Executive
  2. Lola’s future is looking bright
  3. Connor’s passionate campaign drives change
  4. Katie Kelly appointed RIDBC ambassador
  5. Suzie’s cochlear implant journey
  6. Thank you for your support in 2016

1. From the Chief Executive

With the end of the year fast approaching, there is so much going on at RIDBC!

In this issue you will read about an inspirational young man, Connor McLeod, who is a passionate advocate for the blind and low vision community. At just 13 years of age, he successfully advocated for tactile Australian banknotes to include a tactile feature for easy identification by blind or vision impaired people. 

We are delighted to announce champion paratriathlete, Katie Kelly, has become an RIDBC ambassador. Katie has been raising funds for RIDBC for over 20 years and in February 2015, gained selection on Triathlon Australia’s elite Paratriathlon program. Katie has a deep commitment to projects that promote healthier lifestyles, particularly access to sports for children with a disability and is another inspirational person you will want to hear more about.

In September, we held an official launch event for our centre in Deakin, Canberra with newly appointed Disability Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, Alistair McEwin, attending as special guest speaker. The new centre is co-located with Canberra ENT, providing on-site access to ENT surgeons alongside therapy, education and cochlear implant services for children and adults with vision or hearing loss.

The Qantas Pathfinders Charity Flight will take to the skies once again in November in support of RIDBC. This unique annual fundraiser is sponsored by Qantas who donate a 737-800 aircraft, whisking guests away to an exotic location each year – this year guests will enjoy an unforgettable day trip to Hobart, Tasmania. Since first taking to the skies in 2002, the Qantas Pathfinders Charity Flight has raised more than $1.28 million. 

Thank you for your ongoing commitment and support of RIDBC throughout 2016. I wish you the very best for the festive season and a healthy, safe and prosperous 2017. 

Chris Rehn
RIDBC Chief Executive

2. Lola’s future is looking bright

At just 7 weeks of age Lola was diagnosed with congenital bilateral cataracts. Shortly after diagnosis, Lola had her first eye operation. Her journey began with RIDBC at 10 months old and through expert early intervention she has transitioned seamlessly to preschool.
Lola is now three years old and is learning new skills with support from RIDBC. 

“Just before Lola turned one she started receiving expert early intervention from RIDBC. Her early learning consultant would visit our home once a week and bring Lola beautiful vision toys and activities to play with which really helped Lola with her development,” said Lola’s mum, Amelia.

“I feel incredibly passionate about early intervention and it was my personal mission to give her the very best start in life.”

Lola attends RIDBC VisionEd Preschool, which prepares children to transition to school life with a focus on language and social skills, foundation skills for literacy and numeracy, low vision aid and access technology training, orientation and mobility, and independent self-care skills.

“VisionEd Preschool is the most amazing, nurturing centre in the world. Lola loves coming to preschool and has completely blossomed since she started,” said Amelia. “She has made some beautiful friendships and enjoys the routine preschool provides.”

RIDBC VisionEd Preschool together with Amelia are working hard to get Lola ready for school.

“Lola is a divine, self-assured and adventurous little girl who adores preschool,” said RIDBC VisionEd Preschool Director, Kathryn Bowie.

“She has only been with us for a few months but during that time she has adapted to all the routines at preschool. It’s our hope that Lola will progress from here on to her local mainstream school along with her brother and will fit into the classroom like any other child starting big school.”

Lola’s future is looking bright.

“With continued support from RIDBC, I know in my heart Lola is going to have the best start in life and will be able to do whatever she wants,” said Amelia.

“I’ll never forget the day she got her first contacts and looked straight at me, for the first time. That precious moment will stay ingrained in my heart and mind forever.”

3. Connor’s passionate campaign drives change

15 year old Connor, who is blind, successfully lobbied the Reserve Bank to include tactile features on all new banknotes.
Connor McLeod is a passionate advocate for the blind and low vision community. At just 10 years of age, he advocated for his right to represent his school at Cross Country after he qualified but was originally denied that right due to his vision loss.

At 13, he advocated for accessible banknotes to have a tactile feature incorporated on the new series to ensure blind and vision impaired people could independently identify the banknotes correctly. As a result, the first generation of tactile banknotes were issued into circulation in September by The Australian Reserve Bank.

Connor was diagnosed with Leber's congenital amourosis, a recessive genetic eye condition, at four months old.

“It was a terrible shock to be told your child is blind,” said Connor’s mum, Ally. “I had no idea what was involved in raising a blind child and was very frightened of what his future may be.”

Connor began attending RIDBC VisionEd Preschool when he was three years old.

“RIDBC VisionEd Preschool was simply remarkable. Connor first learnt his braille skills there and just being able to read has opened his world up to so many different things,” said Ally. 

Connor now attends mainstream school and receives support from RIDBC School Support Service (Vision Impairment).

“RIDBC has helped Connor build his confidence, independence and social skills. Today Connor is a well-adapted young achiever who just also happens to be blind,” said Ally. “Connor loves abseiling, rock climbing and exploring wild caves. He plays the drums and keyboard and just like most teenage boys he loves his technology.”

Connor is furthering his campaign for change by advocating for text to speech technology on EFTPOS machines to ensure blind and vision impaired users know how much is being withdrawn from their account at the point of purchase. 

4. Katie Kelly appointed RIDBC ambassador

Australian paralympian, Katie Kelly, is proud to join RIDBC as an ambassador. 

RIDBC is delighted to have champion paratriathlete and paralympic gold medallist Katie Kelly on board as an ambassador.

Katie has been raising funds for RIDBC for over 20 years and her generous support is integral to raising awareness and much needed funds for the life changing services that we provide.

“I am thrilled and honoured to be named an ambassador for RIDBC,” said Katie. “I have always been a big supporter of RIDBC and am passionate about the great work and services they provide for children and adults with vision and hearing loss.” 

Katie was born with moderate hearing loss. In her twenties she was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, a degenerative eye sight and hearing condition.

In September, Katie won gold at the Rio Paralympics in the Women’s PT5 Triathlon alongside sighted guide Michellie Jones. The Paratriathlon event made its debut at Rio and consists of a 750m swim, 20km bike ride and a 5km run. 

“I was always very focussed on doing what I know my Guide Michellie Jones and I had trained for. It was a little unknown how I would go as I had been troubled by injury. What I did know was, that I just wanted to take part and finish the race with no regrets.

In many ways that took the pressure off, because I just had to do what I was capable of. For that to result in a Gold medal was truly a huge bonus and I will never forget that precise moment when I held the finish banner and thought ‘This is my moment!” said Katie.

Katie has a deep commitment to projects that promote healthier lifestyles, particularly access to sports for children with a disability. She would also like to see more progression on the social development of children with a disability in Indigenous communities.

Katie is a Board Member of Deaf Sports Australia and is working to set up the ‘Sport Access Foundation’, which will primarily serve to remove any barriers for children with a disability to play sport.

5. Suzie’s cochlear implant journey

For retired swimming teacher, Suzie,  a cochlear implant has proved to be life changing.

“When I turned 50, I started to experience severe vertigo attacks and after several tests was eventually diagnosed with Meniere’s disease and hearing loss in my right ear,” said Suzie. 

“I was referred to a specialist and received injections in my middle ear to treat my vertigo episodes, knowing that the small amount of hearing I had left would disappear. But I also knew I was a candidate for a cochlear implant and shortly after was referred to SCIC Cochlear Implant Program.” 

As soon as Suzie’s cochlear implant was switched on, life changed.

“Once my cochlear implant was switched on, I got my life back – it really was a life changing experience! I no longer felt isolated and was able to drive again. The outdoors and my surroundings felt safe again – walking to the shops was enjoyable as I could hear traffic and people behind me,” said Suzie.

“I now feel less isolated and am part of the conversation again. My eldest granddaughter, Abigail, was the first voice that I learnt to recognise – I was overjoyed. I’m also enjoying listening to the waves lapping onto the shore and being able to hear the other boats around me when I’m kayaking with my waterproof cochlear implant.”

What would Suzie say to other people who might be considering a cochlear implant?

“The decision to have a cochlear implant is a personal one and it’s really up to the individual. It is very different from a hearing aid, but when you get used to it you wouldn’t know you have it on – it’s like putting on my glasses for the day,” said Suzie.

SCIC Cochlear Implant Program supports clients to access a range of implantable hearing devices according to their needs. The program provides a seamless, end-to-end suite of services, from early intervention and education; through to specialist assessment; surgical liaison and support; and rehabilitation services, delivering the highest level of care and support to people of all ages.

For more information about cochlear implants or SCIC Cochlear Implant Program, visit ridbc.org.au/scic or call 1300 581 391.

6. Thank you for your support in 2016

RIDBC wants to say 'thank you' to all the generous donors and community fundraisers who supported our work throughout 2016. It is thanks to your ongoing support that RIDBC can continue to change the lives of thousands of children and adults with vision or hearing loss across Australia.

Rainbow Lottery

Buy a ticket in RIDBC Rainbow Lottery and go in the draw to win the first prize of $20,000!
To purchase, call 1800 043 411 during business hours or visit ridbc.org.au/lottery

RIDBC Lantern Club

Want to be part of a group of dedicated volunteers that have been supporting RIDBC for over 52 years in communities across NSW? Why not join your local Lantern Club?

RIDBC Lantern Club members are enthusiastic, fun-loving and committed people who fundraise for RIDBC. Since their inception, the clubs and their members have raised more than $14 million through a variety of enterprising and fun activities.

Would you like to know more about the Lantern Clubs and how you can be involved? Please contact our Lantern Club Executive on 02 9872 0326 or email
megan.thomas@ridbc.org.au