Ongoing Guide Dog Discrimination Leaves Bad Taste for Vision Impaired

NSW Minister for Disability Services Andrew Constance & Federal Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes AM re-launch ‘Guide Dogs Welcome Here’ campaign

Despite federal and state laws allowing them in, NSW residents with guide dogs continue to be refused entry to hospitality venues, causing them embarrassment and humiliation.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s latest records reveal that at least one guide dog user a month reports that they have been denied access to an outlet, with many other incidents going unreported. In addition, a Guide Dogs survey found that between 2009 and 2010, one in three guide dog users had similar experiences.

This ongoing discrimination has triggered Guide Dogs to re-launch its Guide Dogs Welcome Here campaign, ahead of Guide Dog Awareness Week (22 – 28 April) and International Guide Dog Day (25 April).

With support from NSW Minister for Disability Services Andrew Constance and Federal Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes AM, Guide Dogs is urging hospitality venues to ensure all staff are aware of the relevant guide dog access laws.

“Hospitality staff are generally very helpful, but if they don’t know the guide dog access laws and refuse entry to someone with a guide dog, it can cause the person embarrassment and rattle their confidence,” said Dr Graeme White, CEO, Guide Dogs.

“The guide dog access laws have been in place for over 30 years but despite our ongoing efforts to educate the community, people are still being discriminated against. We want hospitality venues to take action and make sure staff are aware that patrons with guide dogs can enter their premises and enjoy a meal or entertainment just like you and me.”

A recent Roy Morgan survey for Guide Dogs confirmed that there is low public awareness of the guide dog laws, with 42% of the public unaware that guide dogs could legally enter a restaurant and 36% unaware they could legally enter hotels and clubs.

Minister Constance said it is of great importance for not only hospitality venues but all Australians to be aware of the access rights of people with guide dogs.

“Guide dogs provide an invaluable service to people with impaired vision and as a community we should be aware that they are legally allowed to go anywhere with their owners,” said Minister Constance.

“By State and Federal law, all guide dogs must be welcomed into all hospitality venues; this is not a decision venues can make on their own accord.

“We commend Guide Dogs NSW/ACT on their effort to work with organisations and industries to ensure people with impaired vision can go about their business like everyone else.”

Mr Innes who is blind and uses a guide dog has experienced first-hand the humiliation and frustration of being refused entry to a restaurant.

“It’s quite upsetting and disappointing when I’m refused entry to or questioned about coming into a restaurant with my guide dog, because it’s like I’m being treated differently from everyone in the community,” said Mr Innes, who is a human rights lawyer.

“Apart from it being against the law, it’s the impact and damage it can have on a person, which might cause them to participate in life in a more limited way. I urge NSW hospitality venues to support the Guide Dogs Welcome Here campaign so patrons with guide dogs and other service dogs can experience the same level of service as any other customer.”

Hospitality venues are encouraged to request a free Guide Dogs Welcome Here information kit and place the Guide Dogs Welcome Here sticker in their front window to show their support of the campaign.

The kit, which also includes an educational DVD and an information sheet about the guide dog access laws and tips for assisting patrons with impaired vision, are available by calling Guide Dogs NSW/ACT on 02 9412 9300 or visit www.guidedogs.com.au.


For more information, photo opportunities or interviews please contact:

Sally Edgar
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT
0413 753 241
sedgar@guidedogs.com.au

Karina Durham
Palin Communications
0402 307 056
karina@palin.com.au


Note to Editors:

The Guide Dog Access Laws

A harnessed guide dog is legally allowed to accompany its owner into the public areas of all venues under the:

Roy Morgan Statistics Show Low Public Awareness of Guide Dog Access laws, September 2011

About Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT offers a range of free services to suit people with different levels of vision impairment, including training in how to use guide dogs, long canes, electronic travel aids and their remaining vision to be able to get around safely, confidently and independently.