Guide Dogs gifts thousands of inclusive toys to Australian children to promote representation; announces new Ambassador Paralympian Jaryd Clifford
This International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD), Guide Dogs Australia is seeking to normalise disability and highlight the importance of inclusion and acceptance by gifting 1,000 children across Australia with dolls that have white canes or Guide Dogs.
The dolls will be delivered to 1000 young children with low vision or blindness, their friends, families and schools on the day to facilitate conversations around inclusion and representation of people with disability.
The dolls, donated by Kmart Australia include two new varieties, Luke and Guide Dog and Lacey and Guide Dog. Guide Dogs played a collaborative role in the design of the new dolls to ensure authenticity.
One of the first to receive a doll was eight-year-old Guide Dogs Client Sienna, in a visit from newly announced Guide Dogs Ambassador and Paralympian medallist, Jaryd Clifford.
Sienna was born blind due to a congenital disorder, but it hasn’t stopped her from demonstrating an ‘I can do anything’ attitude in every task she puts her mind to, including taking out first-place at her school athletics carnival earlier this year.
“It feels really special to have a doll that looks like me,” said Sienna. “My friends think it’s really cool.”
Jaryd, who was diagnosed with juvenile macular degeneration as a child, said he wishes he had had more exposure to representations of people with disability growing up.
“One of the biggest challenges I had growing up was that I didn’t like standing out or being different. That self-consciousness, I regret it so much. I now realise that my disability is one of my strongest attributes – it’s my diversity, it’s what makes me different,” Jaryd said.
“As a kid, I didn’t really see or have that chance to be exposed to other people like me. I didn’t know where to look to have heroes. As soon as I came across people like this, including through receiving services at Guide Dogs, my life changed forever. It was a big change in my life and made me believe what was possible.
“It’s super powerful to see yourself, and your identity reflected in mainstream society. Inclusion is what society should be, it’s how the world should operate. Everyone should be represented and accepted for who they are.
“It was amazing to meet young Sienna, her family and her friends to help show that people with low vision or blindness can acheive anything.”
As part of his new Ambassador role, Jaryd will take an active part in Guide Dogs’ Children’s Mobility programs and camps that he himself benefited from as a child, to help inspire young kids to achieve their own goals and potential.
“Guide Dogs is an organisation that is close to my heart. I received orientation and mobility services from them from a young age, and attended many school holiday camps that not only increased my independence but gave me the confidence to chase my dreams.
“Everyone knows and loves Guide Dogs for the dogs, but I can personally attest that their services go well beyond that to support people with low vision or blindness in so many other ways,” Jaryd said.