TAKING a guided tour of the Chinese New Year Lunar Lanterns in Sydney will be another milestone for Ian Florek a man who's had seven guide dogs in his life and was born in the Year of the Dog.
Blind since birth, the 71-year-old state government worker will visit the spectacular Lunar Lanterns exhibition at Circular Quay with his guide dog Bryson and other people with vision impairment.
The Lunar Lanterns were designed by 12 internationally acclaimed Asian-Australian artists, depicting the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac. This year the City of Sydney celebrates the Year of the Dog with four new lanterns - the dog, pig, tiger and dragon.
The guided tours of the exhibition on February 21 and 22 take 90-minutes and allow up to eight people with vision impairment per session to experience the Lunar Lanterns with descriptions from instructors and guides.
"I can't wait to visit the Lunar Lanterns - and being part of a guided tour is an ideal opportunity," Mr Florek said.
"I really depend on my guide dog, but when it comes to visiting new places like exhibitions, Bryson also needs some form of support, so this guided tour will be perfect.
"Being born in the Year of the Dog is an apt thing because I love dogs - I'm a true dog person. Dogs are very special and have unconditional love for you. They are very beautiful and understanding," Mr Florek said.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City of Sydney was proud to partner with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT for the Sydney Chinese New Year Festival.
"We have long supported the work of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and welcoming the Year of the Dog is an excellent time to reflect on the work of this incredible organisation and its success stories," the Lord Mayor said
It takes over two years and costs more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train a guide dog. In addition to Guide Dogs, the organisation provides orientation and mobility services to enable people with impaired vision to get around their communities independently, including training and aids like long canes, and electronic travel devices such as talking GPS technology.
Like all of the organisation's services, guide dogs are provided at no cost to those who need them.
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT chief executive Dale Cleaver said the organisation continually advocates for improving accessibility for people with vision impairment.
"The Lunar Lanterns guided tour is about accessibility and inclusion at an event that some people would not be able to go to without support.
The City of Sydney, which boasts the largest Lunar New Year celebrations outside of Asia, will host a graduation ceremony for three dogs-in-training that have made the grade and are about to become guide dogs on February 17 at 5.30pm on the Community Performance Stage at First Fleet Park in The Rocks.
A Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Model Dog Art Installation, comprising 70 life-size model dogs decorated by artists, will be on display at Scout Place (outside the AMP Building) and Customs House, Circular Quay from February 16 to 25.
The art installation celebrates 60 years of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. Visitors can vote for their favourite painted dog with a gold coin donation. Following the exhibition, selected dogs will go under the hammer at a charity auction to raise vital funds for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT to assist people who are blind or vision impaired.
- The guided tour of the Lunar Lanterns leaves from the Model Dog Art Installation at Scout Place (outside AMP Building) at 7.30pm. Sydney Chinese New Year 2018 celebrations run from February 16 to March 4.