Guide dogs do se­ri­ous work

The Welland Tribune - - OPINION -

Many blind and par­tially sighted Cana­di­ans still find them­selves in chal­leng­ing and frus­trat­ing sit­u­a­tions when try­ing to ac­cess pub­lic spa­ces such as cabs, B&Bs, restau­rants and shop­ping es­tab­lish­ments.

In all of Canada’s 13 ju­ris­dic­tions, hu­man rights leg­is­la­tion pro­hibits dis­crim­i­nat­ing against a per­son with a dis­abil­ity work­ing with a ser­vice an­i­mal. Dis­crim­i­na­tion in­cludes de­nial of ac­cess to any premises to which the pub­lic would nor­mally have ac­cess.

In On­tario, there are three pieces of leg­is­la­tion (Blind Per­son’s Rights Act, Ac­ces­si­bil­ity for On­tar­i­ans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act and the On­tario Hu­man Rights Code) to pro­tect guide dog users. Un­for­tu­nately, this is not well known.

Guide dogs are highly trained an­i­mals that help pro­vide mo­bil­ity, safety and in­creased in­de­pen­dence for peo­ple with sight loss. They as­sist their han­dlers in nav­i­gat­ing ob­sta­cles typ­i­cally found on most daily routes, in­clud­ing curbs, steps and crowds, help­ing to give them the con­fi­dence to pur­sue ed­u­ca­tion, ca­reers and ac­tiv­i­ties in their com­mu­ni­ties.

Guide dogs are not pets. Guide dogs do se­ri­ous work.

As part of Septem­ber’s Na­tional Guide Dog Month, CNIB is cel­e­brat­ing guide dogs by rais­ing aware­ness on the rights of guide dog users when ac­cess­ing pub­lic spa­ces and shar­ing some sim­ple-to-fol­low guide dog eti­quette tips.

If you see a guide dog in harness, please avoid talk­ing to or in­ter­act­ing with the guide dog. Please do not pet, feed or oth­er­wise dis­tract a work­ing guide dog. A well-in­ten­tioned pat can undo months of train­ing. And, you should only pet a guide dog when it is not in harness af­ter you’ve re­ceived per­mis­sion from the han­dler to do so.

If you own a pet dog, pleased keep it on a leash and un­der con­trol when you’re out and about in the com­mu­nity. When ap­proach­ing a guide dog team with your dog, clearly in­tro­duce your­self to the per­son and say “I’m pass­ing on your left and I have a dog with me.” Never al­low your dog to be walked by a child or some­one who is un­able to man­age its be­hav­iour.

To learn more, visit cnibguide­dogs.ca.

Robert Gaunt Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor CNIB On­tario-West

Letters should be no more than 250 words, neatly typed or printed and in­clude the writ­ers’ full name and ad­dress, plus a day­time tele­phone num­ber for ver­i­fi­ca­tion. Letters will be edited for con­tent and le­gal­ity. Email to as­cott@postmedia.com or mailed to 10-1 St. Paul St., St. Catharines, On­tario, L2R 4L7.

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