Taking the Lead | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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Taking the Lead

A Guide Dog handler walks with his Guide Dog along a sidewalk

As part of the International Guide Dog Day 2017, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT launched the Taking the Lead education campaign which highlights the access rights of Guide Dog handlers.

The Issue

A research by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT reveals that a third (33%) of Guide Dog handlers had their access rights challenged when visiting hotels, motels, caravans and other accommodation. Some Guide Dog handlers also reported being refused entry completely or asked to pay an additional bond because they were accompanied by a Guide Dog.

Dr Graeme White, CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, said the organisation has influenced positive changes in the community in recent years to improve Guide Dog access; however, more needs to be done to increase education around Guide Dogs access rights within the accommodation industry.

Research Findings

  • 33% of Guide Dog handlers have had access rights challenged by accommodation providers in the past three to five years, with 67% of these situations occurring at motels and 39% occurring at hotels
  • 60% of Guide Dog handlers indicated access issues in restaurants and cafes; 52% in taxis; 32% in shopping centres

Taking the Lead

As the leading provider of Guide Dogs and other mobility services for people with sight loss, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is working closely with various hospitality and transport industry bodies to provide educational materials and training to staff to ensure they are aware of Australian Guide Dog access laws.

“Our organisation plays an important role in advocating on behalf of people with impaired vision to ensure the community is a safe, accessible and easy place in which to live and work.  The Taking the Lead campaign signifies the start of a new venture that will ensure all hotels, motels and other accommodation venues in NSW and ACT are clearly aware of the access rights of Guide Dogs handlers,” said Dr White.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has developed a new education kit for the accommodation industry, which will inform staff about a Guide Dog’s function, how to behave around a Guide Dog and how to offer help to a Guide Dog handler if it’s needed. It will also provide clarity around Guide Dog Access laws, which have been in place for more than 30 years.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Mr Alastair McEwin, who supports the Taking the Lead campaign, said, “Education leads to change, and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is taking the lead to ensure the NSW and ACT hospitality industry is always welcoming to all patrons, including Guide Dog handlers. I hope this campaign helps people who are blind or vision impaired travel with greater ease.”

Guide Dog Facts and Access Rights

  • A Guide Dog is not a pet. Guide Dogs are highly trained to guide a person with sight loss to move around and travel safely and independently.
  • A Guide Dog handler and his/her Guide Dog are legally allowed to enter all public places except zoos and operating theatres. Guide Dogs are welcome in public places such as restaurants, cafes, hotels and other accommodation facilities, medical/dental practices, and shops. They can also travel on all forms of public transport including taxis and planes.
  • It is illegal to discriminate against Guide Dog handlers, under the following laws:
    • Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Section 9)
    • NSW Companion Animals Act 1998  (Sections 14 & 59)
    • Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (Chapter 3, section 24(1) b)
  • It is an offence to deny or charge a fee for the entry of a Guide Dog. In NSW, police officers can issue on-the-spot fines of $165 and penalty notices of up to $800 to any individual, business or establishment that violates Guide Dog access rights.
  • A Guide Dog undergoes rigorous training where it is taught about how to behave in public areas.
  • All Guide Dog handlers carry a Guide Dog passport and a Guide Dog Access Card for identification.

How you can help

  • If you see a Guide Dog handler who might need assistance, approach the person, introduce yourself, and ask how you can assist them. Address the person and never pat or distract the Guide Dog.
  • You can assist a Guide Dog handler to ring the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 to report an incident or to lodge a complaint when denied access to a public place or business.
  • Help us spread the word about Guide Dog access rights.
    • Follow the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Facebook and Twitter pages, and share our Taking the Lead messages to your social network.
    • Join the conversation. Use the hashtags #TakingTheLead or #GuideDogsWelcomeHere or #IGDD2017 in your Facebook or Twitter posts.

Campaign resources