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International Day of People with Disability to be celebrated

A host of fun activities will be taking place in the Hastings City mall next week to celebrate this year’s International Day of People with Disability.

On Tuesday, December 3, between 11.30am and 2.30pm, the city centre will be abuzz with a barbecue competition, a kapa haka display, and more.

The Safer Hastings team, led by Hastings District Council, is holding the event to promote and support the rights and wellbeing of people with disabilities, and alongside the activities there will be information stalls, including employment information.

One of the initiatives people will be able to find out about is the Mobility Assistance Dogs charitable trust, which trains and provides dogs to people living with disabilities to offer practical support, companionship and security.

Two local people who are members of the Hastings Disability Reference Group, which is a focus group for the Safer Hastings coalition, will be at the mall on the day with their own Mobility Dogs so people can find out more about these canine companions and the clever things they can do.

Sarah Hansen, who lives with cerebral palsy, will be there with her five-year-old Labrador/retriever, Phoenix, who she’s had for just over two years.

Phoenix helps her in many ways, including picking things up for her, like the phone, and he’s also pulled her out of the bathroom and into the lounge about three times after she fell over.

“He’s amazing, it’s made a big difference having him – it’s great peace of mind knowing that if something happens he’s there to help – and he has a beautiful personality as well.”

Michelle Smith has had a Mobility Dog for the last 13 to 14 years, her latest, Leah, a golden retriever, for six and a half years.

Living with muscular dystrophy, she says she couldn’t imagine life without the support of a Mobility Dog.

“She keeps me independent – it’s good for my husband as he knows that if I am at home or at work I’m okay because I have her to assist me.

“If I drop things she picks them up - she will get the phone for me, she opens and shuts doors – little things that save me so much energy – she even sometimes pre-empts what I need.

“Even after 13 years I am in awe of these dogs.”

Leah also plays a role in helping with social interaction out and about, says Michelle.

“When you’re in public in a wheelchair you can become invisible and people don’t know how to approach you – having a dog makes you feel more visible and valued.”

She warned though that people should not just come up and pet dogs like Leah, as they are on duty and shouldn’t be distracted.

Head down to the Hastings mall on December 3 and find out more about Mobility Dogs and other services and show your support for people living with disability.


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