Guide Dog Awareness Month

9/11/2017

News Release

September is Guide Dog Awareness Month: CNIB has some tips for interacting with guide dogs and their handlers
Bobby Weir with guide dog Yanni V2.JPG

September 11, 2017 – [Kelowna, BC] – 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 British Columbia when accessing public spaces.

Guide dogs are specially bred and trained to provide mobility assistance to people who are blind or partially sighted. They are a partner in independence that can open up the world in a profoundly different way. 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 do understand that my guide dog Yanni is pretty irresistible. When he is working and in harness it makes navigation and maintaining our connection much easier if people pretend he is invisible. If he gets distracted, he is the one that is reprimanded," says Bobby Weir, a Volunteer Program Coordinator who works at the CNIB Kelowna office.

Knowing the proper etiquette and following a few simple "rules" will ensure appropriate social behaviour 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 behaviour 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 if 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 shops. In B.C. the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act 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. Unfortunately, this is not well known.

"It's insulting when I rely on Yanni for success in being independent and I'm told that we don't belong. It is like asking someone sighted to remove their glasses or their eyes – he is a part of me. I once found myself stranded at an airport late at night because none of the cabs would take me with my guide dog," says Weir.

CNIB is committed to advocating with and for guide dog users to increase public awareness and break down barriers that impede accessibility. 

More information about the B.C. Guide Dog and Service Dog Act can be found here: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/justice/human-rights/guide-and-service-dog

About CNIB

CNIB is a registered charity, providing community-based support 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/bc

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For media enquiries, please contact:

Danielle Suter
Communications Manager – CNIB British Columbia
Email: Danielle.Suter@cnib.ca
Office: 604-431-2121 ext. 6016 or Mobile: 604-318-1752

 

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