Peter and Seeing Eye Dog Anya use AFL to teach inclusion

12 July 2022

Peter Frank is legally blind.

That doesn’t stop him kicking goals on and off the footy field.

Peter is part of Hawthorn Football Club’s Hawks For All program, which visits schools to teach kids about blindness and low vision and inclusion more broadly. 

Peter was born blind in one eye and lost most of the vision in his other eye later in life. That vision loss caused Peter to retire from his career as a physical education teacher, but joining the Hawthorn Blind AFL team in 2021 led to his new career with Hawks For All. 

“The underpinning philosophy of the Hawks For All program is to give kids an awareness of disability,” Peter said.

“The wheelchair team does it too, footy is just the platform. We introduce ourselves and the Hawks and we discuss our low vision and blindness and how the modifications of the sport to enable us to play,” he said.

Peter’s lived experience and his past life as teacher give him an understanding of how to make his school visits engaging for students. 

An always popular activity is students practicing basic footy skills wearing simulation glasses from Vision Australia which simulate five different conditions.

“The experience of the simulation absolutely hits home with the kids,” Peter said.

“They 100% start to understand the reality. From the moment they put them on we tell them, we can’t ever take ours off. The realise how much harder it is even walking to their classrooms, to see the football coming or contact the ball with their foot.”

"Ned, Henry and Peter"
Ned, Henry and Peter

On Peter’s visits to schools he is joined by his Seeing Eye Dog Anya, a black Labrador, and Ned, one of his Hawthorn blind team mates.

“When we go and talk to the kids about our own situations, I talk about Anya, what her role is, what the harness is, what decisions she makes and what decisions I make,” he said.

“I tell them what job she has and what the training is, so why they can’t pat or communicate with her while she is wearing her harness.

“It can be hard to get their focus, it’s more the dog is in the room but the older ones get to see a bit about how she works and most of them have never been up close and personal with a Seeing Eye Dog.”

Anya has been around the country and makes a massive difference in Peter’s life. She’s been to the MCG and AAMI Park for soccer and rugby, rock concerts, she’s stayed in 5-star hotels and flown on business class flights.

“Anya has a lot of spunk!

“We do airports a lot and the crowds in the city. We use a lot of public transport. I struggled in the city, crowds, airport with no peripheral vision, it was overwhelming with tripping hazards, being bumped or bumping into people and objects and overheads. Anya knows to slow down, negotiate obstacles and keep me safe.”

"Peter and Seeing Eye Dog Anya"
Peter and Seeing Eye Dog Anya

Schools can request the Hawks For All program to come to their school free of charge.