September is Guide Dog Awareness Month: CNIB spreading the word on rights and respect for guide dog pairs in Saskatchewan

9/5/2017
(Saskatchewan) – September 2017 is National Guide Dog Month. During this month CNIB will celebrate all guide dogs by sharing some simple-to-follow guide dog etiquette tips and raising awareness on the rights of guide dog users in Saskatchewan when accessing public spaces.

Guide dogs, which are specially bred and trained to provide mobility assistance to people who are blind or partially sighted, are more than just a tool – they are a partner in independence that can open up the world in a profoundly different way. A guide dog can instill greater confidence for guide dog users in exploring unfamiliar environments. But, in order to do that there needs to be a better understanding of the rights to access public spaces with a guide dog as well as knowledge of the etiquette associated with encountering a guide dog pair. 

"I want people to realize that although my guide dog is cute he is busy working. Please ignore him. If you don't you are endangering the handler," said Shan Noyes, guide dog user and CNIB spokesperson.  

Knowing the proper etiquette and following a few simple "rules" will ensure appropriate social behaviours in the dogs and reduce the risk of dangerous situations for the guide dog pair. 
  • Harness on means hands off. A guide dog in harness means “Please don’t distract me. I’m working.” Sometimes if the dog is not "working" the user may decide to remove the harness and let you pet their dog. Always ask first.
  • Don't feed them. Especially when guide dogs are working in harness. Offering food to the dog can result in antisocial behaviours such as begging for food and scavenging off the ground. 
  • Contain your excitement. Don't encourage excitable play in a guide dog. Guide dogs are given access to public places where other dogs are not permitted, so they must stay calm. 
  • Say "hello" another time. If you're walking your pet dog and you approach a guide pair, take your dog away from the guide dog. A guide dog encounter with a pet dog can result in a challenging and sometimes dangerous distraction. 
  • The rights of guide dog users go beyond asking whether or not you can interact with the dog. Many blind and partially sighted Canadians still find themselves in challenging and frustrating situations when trying to access public spaces such as cabs, 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, including tenancy right. Unfortunately, this is not well known. 
"A number of times in restaurants and in cabs I have been denied access because I had my guide dog with me. I find this both frustrating and embarrassing that I still have to explain and negotiate my human right to access public spaces," said Noyes.

CNIB launched its Guide Dog Program in April 2017. The program's focus is to train guide dogs to meet the needs of blind and partially sighted Canadians exclusively, with training philosophies that maximize success and a suite of supports to ensure every guide dog user has full enjoyment of their guide dog. This includes a commitment to rights and advocating with and for guide dog users to increase public awareness and break down barriers that impede accessibility. To find out more about CNIB's guide dog program and find out how you can support, visit cnibguidedogs.ca.

About CNIB
CNIB is a registered charity, passionately providing community-based support, knowledge and a national voice to ensure Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life. To learn more, visit www.cnib.ca or call the toll-free CNIB Contact Centre at 1-800-563-2642. 

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For media enquiries, please contact:

Jackie Lay
Specialist, Communications, CNIB Manitoba
Office: (306) 565-5417, Cell: (306) 540-3086 or jackie.lay@cnib.ca 

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