New research commissioned by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, reveals that each week one NSW or ACT resident who is blind or vision impaired with a Guide Dog, is discriminated against by a restaurant or cafe illegally refusing or questioning their entry.
The research, conducted by EY Sweeney Research, found more than half (53%) of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's Guide Dog clients experienced discrimination in the past year, the largest percentage of these instances (40%) occurring within cafes and restaurants.
The survey showed discrimination caused humiliation and anxiety, with many Guide Dog users changing their routines by avoiding trouble areas or going out without their Guide Dog.
To address this issue, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has launched a new advocacy and education campaign, 'It's time to end Guide Dog discrimination', today, being International Guide Dog Day. The day celebrates the important role Guide Dogs play in enabling people with vision loss to stay safe and be independent.
"While the public generally do the right thing, our survey shows people with Guide Dogs continue to face many barriers when going about their daily lives, which strips them of their independence," said Dr Graeme White, CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, the leading provider of Guide Dogs and other mobility services for people who are blind or vision impaired.
"Imagine how you'd feel if you weren't allowed into a café. Guide Dogs are not pets. They are highly trained to open up the world for people who are blind or vision impaired, not close it down, which is effectively what discrimination does. We're calling on the NSW public to help bring discrimination against Guide Dog users to an end."
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has partnered with the NSW Police Force to raise awareness of the illegal and finable offence of denying or charging people with a Guide Dog access to public premises, including restaurants and cafes.
NSW Police Force Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford, Corporate Sponsor for Vulnerable Communities, said NSW police officers will respond to reports of discrimination from Guide Dog users and issue fines where appropriate.
"It's a crime to refuse entry to a person with a Guide Dog," said Assistant Commissioner Clifford. "The NSW Guide Dog access laws have been in place for more than 30 years and like all forms of discrimination, there's no excuse for it."
To empower Guide Dog users to stand up for their rights, NSW Police and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT have developed a new business card-sized 'Guide Dog Access Rights' card, outlining the relevant laws and fines. It states that NSW Police officers can issue on-the-spot fines of $165 and penalty notices of up to $880 for refusing entry to a Guide Dog user.
Dr White added, "In Queensland, offenders have faced fines of up to $55,000 since 2009 for breaking the Guide Dog access laws. I expect the NSW Government will be reviewing NSW penalties if this issue isn't resolved quickly."
To help restaurateurs and café owners train and remind staff of the issue, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has developed a video featuring support from high-profile chefs including Cafe Sydney Executive Chef James Kidman and Kitchen by Mike's Mike McEnearney, and is working with Restaurant & Catering Australia to distribute educational materials.
Supporters are encouraged to take a stand against Guide Dog discrimination by joining the conversation on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with #lawsforpaws. For more information, please phone (02) 9412 9300 or visit www.guidedogs.com.au
Sally Edgar, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, +61 413 753 241, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam Boyd, Access PR, (02) 9292 7013, +61 414 408 198, email@example.com
Laura Minns, Access PR, (02) 9292 7002, +61 431 375 990, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Guide Dogs NSW/ACT
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is the leading provider of Guide Dogs and orientation and mobility (white cane) services to enable people with impaired vision to get around their communities independently. Services include providing training and aids including long canes, Guide Dogs and electronic travel devices such as talking GPS technology. Visit www.guidedogs.com.au, call 1800 804 805, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter