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
Kathy Culhane crouching with Guide Dog Italy in CNIB Calgary Fragrant Garden framed as a square.jpg
September 11, 2017 – [Calgary, AB] – 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 Alberta 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.

"It is so important for the public to understand that guide dogs are working dogs and not following the proper etiquette could endanger both the safety of myself and my guide dog," says Kathy Culhane, who teaches Independent Living Skills at the CNIB Calgary 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.

Many blind and partially sighted Canadians with guide dogs still find themselves in challenging and frustrating situations when trying to access public spaces such as cabs, restaurants and shopping establishments. In Alberta, the Blind Persons' Rights Act prohibits discriminating against a person working with a guide dog, with fines up to $3000.00. 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.

"I use public transit on a daily basis, and the amount of times I have had to ask or not even been offered a seat, even though the seating area is for people with disabilities is dumbfounding. I am also constantly being asked if they can pet my guide dog, and I always say 'no she's working'. Also, people just not moving out of the way can be very frustrating," says Culhane.

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 Alberta Blind Persons' Rights Act can be found here: http://www.humanservices.alberta.ca/disability-services/blind-persons-rights-act.html 

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/alberta

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For media enquiries, please contact:
Danielle Suter
Communications Manager – CNIB Alberta
Email: Danielle.Suter@cnib.ca
Office: 604-431-2121 ext. 6016 or Mobile: 604-318-1752

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