International Day of People with Disability is a special day of acknowledgement but for Serge and his loyal mate Winston it was an extra special celebration.
Winston, along with other guide dogs, graduated as a fully qualified working guide dog at a ceremony held by Guide Dogs WA.
Serge and Winston were presented with a graduation certificate and a clay-modelled plaque of their hand and footprints.
The black Labrador lives with 59-year-old Serge and his wife in rural Mount Barker, in the south of Western Australia. He is an essential part of Serge’s life.
Serge lost his vision in 2018 due to the combination of a hereditary condition, Cone Dystrophy, and side effects of medication prescribed for arthritis.
The degenerative change in his eyes left the former bus driver legally blind and needing help with day-to-day activities such as cooking or simply popping down to the local shop for groceries.
He had already met Winston when the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was rolled out in Mount Barker last July.
APM Communities played an important role in supporting Serge’s journey towards connecting with the NDIS as a participant.
APM Communities helps NDIS participants and people with disability to identify and access the support they need.
APM Local Area Coordinators work directly with people with disability, carers and supporting family members.
Teams work with local businesses and community organisations, by providing tailored support to help them improve inclusion for people with disability.
Serge gives credit to his Albany based LAC Tanya for the help she has given both accessing the scheme and identifying essential supports.
“APM have been brilliant. We told her this is what I must have to do what I need to do. She (Tanya) advocated for me extremely well and I got everything that we wanted,” Serge said.
“It’s been fantastic. Without the NDIS I don’t where I would be right now,” he said.
Joining the scheme meant that along with 'Winnie', and his associated care needs, Serge was able to get NDIS funding for assistive technology such as specialised cooking appliances and a wearable artificial vision device called an OrCam.
The OrCam, is fitted with a camera and a microphone that, when clipped onto glasses, reads text to the person wearing it. The device also aids with facial recognition.
“If I want to know where I am. I can take a photo then it tells me where I am. It reads out menus, it reads my mail for me,” he said.
“That’s an awesome bit of kit that one.”
Serge uses funding to travel, along with side-kick Winnie, to lawn bowls for sight impaired players in Perth.
He rolls up at The Vision Impaired and Blind Bowlers of Western Australia an organisation dedicated to assisting totally blind and vision impaired people play the sport.
He travels to Perth twice a month to play and hopes to travel to the east coast next year to take part in the national titles in Port Macquarie, NSW.
Serge said without the NDIS he could never have been able to afford to pick up with his life following the loss of his sight.
“Being able to cook, get out in the community and have confidence with Winston and the OrCam that I am able to get myself home and not get lost most importantly. It’s bloody great.”
“Every club I go to, wherever else I go, people welcome me and Winnie.”
As part of the NDIS Partners in the Community program, APM Communities help people with disability in several regions in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to access support.