Robyn first met Gisele when she answered a notice on a notice board at her local vet looking for people who could assist people with getting their animals to the vet. Robyn made a call and that’s how she met Gisele, and of course D’Artagnan, Gisele’s guide dog.
“When I found Robyn it was such a relief. I didn’t have to pay, you know $50 an hour or whatever, to take my dog to the vet or walking or swimming. Somebody was willing to volunteer.”
That was 4 years ago and since then the two women spend one day every week with D’Artagnan, walking him or taking him for a swim. And they discovered that they had lots in common: Robyn was learning French, Gisele is a native French speaker. They both love the theatre and reading. And they both go to adult education classes at the WEA.
And something else happened along the way. During their walks Gisele would often talk about her work for a not for profit organisation.
“About three years ago I started a group called Digital Gap Initiative. It’s a bit of a mouthful but basically, it’s an organisation that pushes for digital accessibility. We all know that in a physical environment we need to have access ramps to buildings, disability parking and lifts and so on, But there is no legislation for access to the digital universe. And yet the digital universe is there everyday for us: home appliances and other devices, ATM machines and much more. That digital universe is difficult for people with disability to use.”
“I started this group to push for legislation three years ago and we are still going. Every time D’Artagnan and I walked with Robyn, I would sound off, so Robyn got interested and when we needed a new Director Robyn put up her hand to join. And it’s been incredible for us. My main experience has been about vision impairment and access to technology. Robyn brought a new perspective because of her having been a teacher of children with special needs, including children with Autism. And so that’s really enriched our work.”
Robyn nods and adds: “Because it’s technology-based, that’s not my world! So I’ve had to learn a lot. But it has opened my mind. I understand now that in ten, twenty years’ time this accessibility issue will be huge.”
And then she adds with a smile:
“Besides, Giselle and I, we also really like to go to French patisseries!”
I acknowledge that my work is conducted on the land of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and future, for they hold the memories, traditions, Cultures and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Sovereignty was never ceded.