Debbie Lenehan: Vision Australia

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Debbie Lenehan: Vision Australia

How a shock diagnosis led Debra to start giving back

Losing her vision has done nothing to dim Debra Lenehan’s drive to help others.

Diagnosed with the rare genetic eye disorder Retinitis Pigmentosa in her 30s, Debbie was in desperate need of a helping hand - not just to guide her through her new physical reality, but also to deal with the emotional side of her loss of sight.

That’s where Vision Australia stepped in, offering mobility training to teach her how to get around her house and use public transport. It also gave her computer lessons.

“When I first got diagnosed I cried for about two weeks but Vision Australia was very supportive, with training and with helping me through the emotional side of things,” she says.

Over time Debbie adjusted to her new reality and was able to get back to doing many of the things she had enjoyed in her old life, such as travelling and cooking.

Soon Debbie found herself wanting to give back to the blind and low vision community, and she became a Vision Australia volunteer.

She has become known as an essential representative at the “coal face” of the organisation and is especially good at helping people adjust to new diagnoses of vision loss. Beyond that, she leads by example to show that it is possible to have a disability and still enjoy a rich and active lifestyle.

She is actively involved in fundraising and is a familiar face at local shopping centres, railway stations and hardware stores.

“It is worth it because I feel strongly that I need to get out into the public to teach people about blindness and low vision and to raise funds for the training of seeing eye dogs.

She says it's great to be voted a Westfield Local Hero. “I'm happy to do anything to raise awareness of blindness and low vision.”

Given Debbie’s passion for Seeing Eye Dogs, the $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant has been spent on the Seeing Eye Dog Program to breed, raise and train a puppy to become a Seeing Eye Dog.

For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.

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