LOYAL HELPER: Local Dave Byars loves his guide dog Queeny.
LOYAL HELPER: Local Dave Byars loves his guide dog Queeny. Luka Kauzlaric

Spreading the message that guide dogs can go anywhere

IT'S not always red carpets and welcome mats for guide dogs in Queensland, but with some more understanding, this is something that can change.

Last Wednesday was International Guide Dog Day and guide dog schools across the nation were helping spread the message that "guide dogs can go anywhere".

Guide Dogs Queensland chief executive officer Barb Tasker said the message was not designed to enforce the protected rights of guide dog teams, but to encourage everyone to make handlers feel welcome and included in their home communities.

"Having a guide dog is a life changing experience for our blind and vision impaired handlers, helping to promote their independence and confidence to get out and enjoy life to the fullest," Ms Tasker said.

"Everyone in the community has an important role to play in ensuring the handlers who work with these amazing animals get treated fairly at all times.

"We know from feedback that instances of people refusing access or services to someone because of their guide dog are quite low in Queensland.

"But most of our handlers can still tell you of times where they haven't been made feel welcome at a business or by a member of the community, and that's something that's got to change."

With 28 Australians diagnosed every day with vision loss that cannot be corrected, including nine that will become blind, the demand for guide dogs is steadily increasing.

"With around 1000 guide dogs now working across Australia and over 100 working daily in Queensland, it's likely that even places that don't have a resident guide dog will still have one visit at some stage.

"Having the community recognise that qualified guide dogs and assistance dogs have the right to enter any location with their handler that a sighted member of the public can is a big step towards acceptance.

"This includes access to restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, accommodation and all forms of transport, including trains, planes and automobiles."

As part of its International Guide Dog Day celebrations, Guide Dogs Queensland is also recognising outstanding organisations around the state that ensure their facilities are accessible and their staff are welcoming and inclusive of guide dog handlers.

Organisations on board include:

  • Gladstone Taxis
  • Yellow Cabs in Brisbane
  • Sunbus in Cairns and on the Sunshine Coast
  • Duffy's City Buses in Bundaberg
  • GoldLinQ on the Gold Coast
  • Toowoomba Regional Council
  • Townsville Taxis