When Jo Weir and her guide dog Wiley walk into a room, people can’t help but notice.

However, this has become normal within Ms Weir's workplace in the Office of the Defence Seaworthiness Regulator (ODSwR) within the Department of Defence over the last 12 months.

Defence has gold membership status to the Australian Network on Disability (AND), which is a not-for-profit organisation resourced by its members to advance the inclusion of people with disability in all aspects of business. 

For Ms Weir and Wiley, the reason behind the granting of this status was clear when she started work with the ODSwR team in November 2019. 

Ms Weir said, right from the beginning of the recruitment process, the team worked with her to ensure she had the tools available to do her job and never once assumed she was incapable of participating or completing a task.

She attributes a lot of her success to the efforts of her supervisor Kat Davis, who took the approach that, with reasonable accommodations and some occasional creative thinking, most workplace barriers were easily overcome. 

Ms Davis arranged a meeting for all staff in the area about a week after Ms Weir started work.

Ms Weir explained the correct etiquette for interactions with Wiley.

She also spoke about what her colleagues could do to help her around the office, with things like introducing themselves until she got used to the voices.

The assistive technology options which Defence uses for the visually impaired have been a trial-and-error experience for Ms Weir.

However, the ODSwR management team ensured they contacted the correct people within the organisation to help from the beginning.

The ICT Assistive Technology Team from CIOG was available to troubleshoot when issues occurred and looked for ways to improve the assistive technology Defence has at its disposal.

Ms Weir is taking part in a trial of secure laptops with assistive technology that will allow Ms Weir to work remotely.

Everyone has been amazing in regards to Wiley, acknowledging and abiding by the rules for when he is harnessed.

Within 12 months, Ms Weir cemented herself as an integral member of the ODSwR Team, and was offered the opportunity to act up into an APS6 role in May 2020, taking over the creation and maintenance of the Quality Management System for the office.

When the decision was made to set up an Integrated Project Team (IPT), there was no question in anyone’s mind that Ms Weir would be a driving force.

The IPT is a large scale project running for the rest of the financial year.

Ms Weir’s work with this team and the quality management system has been widely recognised by the new ODSwR leadership.

Ms Weir said the biggest advantage of her job was that she could bring Wiley into the office.

“Everyone has been amazing in regards to Wiley, acknowledging and abiding by the rules for when he is harnessed and checking with her if they are unsure,” she said.

The support has included colleagues taking Wiley for walks in the bush around Campbell Park offices.

Ms Weir and Wiley were also given early warning of a potential evacuation when fires threatened Campbell Park offices early this year so they could leave the building with ease.

For Ms Weir, the Department of Defence and the ODSwR team are employers of choice for those who have a disability as they have shown they are willing to do what is necessary to assist all their staff achieve their full potential.