Guide dogs are sometimes refused access because of a lack of understanding. (ABC News: Linda Hunt)
Guide dogs and sight canes not enough for disabled parking — that needs to change, MP says
One in three Tasmanian guide dog owners have experienced discrimination like being denied access to cafes and restaurants with their companion dogs.
A new campaign by Guide Dogs Tasmania and the Tasmanian Hospitality Association wants to change that.
Kate Grady from Guide Dogs Tasmania hopes to raise awareness of dog access rights.
Guide Dogs Tasmania Marketing Manager Kate Grady says discrimination is a denial of basic rights. (ABC News: Linda Hunt)
“For the clients what it means to have a guide dog is that they can go anywhere,” Ms Grady said.
“When someone refuses you access they’re denying you the right to participate in something that everybody else can,” she said.
“It’s humiliating, it’s embarrassing, it’s inconvenient.
“Also some clients then think twice about taking their guide dog which defeats the purpose of having a guide dog in the first place.”
The organisation said guide dogs were sometimes refused access because of a lack of understanding.
“A business might refuse because they don’t understand that a dog is performing a job,” Ms Grady said.
“That job is to keep it’s handler safe and to keep its handler mobile and independent and out in the community like the rest of us.”
Businesses urged to understand the law
Under the Guide Dogs and Hearing Dogs Act, it is an offence to refuse a person with a guide dog entry into a public place.
Hobart resident Sara Waitzer said she had been questioned or refused entry to cafes and restaurants several times because of her guide dog Pepper.
“I love food, I love bars and I love cafes, and having a guide dog allows me to go to all those venues,” she said.
Sara Waitzer says she doesn’t think twice about taking her guide dog Pepper everywhere. (ABC News: Linda Hunt)
“On occasion there has been places that have questioned me accessing the venue.
“Those questions really do put you on the back foot and make you unsure.
“It makes you a little bit sad or withdrawn.”
Businesses have been urged to understand the law.
“The guide dog is part of you so when I go somewhere Pepper goes with me and I don’t take it as a second thought,” Ms Waitzer said.
“I always equate it to my sighted friends as ‘it’s like if you were declined based on your shoes’.”
Steve Old from the Tasmanian Hospitality Association said the majority of cafes and restaurants did the right thing.
“We do still come across issues where some venues don’t understand the rules,” Mr Old said.
“They just need to understand what the laws are and the legislation then they’re more than happy to abide by it.”