Mon, 07 Mar 2016
My trusty black Labrador guide dog has been with me just over three years now, and the thought of going it alone is more daunting than getting lost together.
A guide dog and their owner are a team, a working partnership, and even if you do occasionally get lost, you never feel like you're on your own.
I’m sure I don’t need to spout about how wonderfully fantastic guide dogs are, but unfortunately, even in today’s accepting society, there are still issues with accessing services.
Just picture how it feels to be rejected from an establishment that doesn’t differentiate between service dogs such as guide dogs, and pets.
Thankfully it's only happened to me a few times, but I can tell you from experience that it is utterly mortifying, not to mention illegal.
Burghfield-based charity Guide Dogs For The Blind Association is currently campaigning to highlight this issue.
A survey revealed that 75 per cent of guide dog owners have been refused access to services with in the last six months.
These include everyday things most people take fore granted, like frequenting shops, restaurants, and even taking taxis.
There have been a few notable national cases over the past year that have seen guide dog owners winning legal cases against businesses which refuse to allow a service dog and their owner access.
The question is, what can be done to spread awareness about this issue?
I fear there is no quick solution to educating those people and businesses that do not currently have awareness training, but acknowledging that there is a problem is surely the first step in making access something for all.
For my part, me and my dog Tara go pretty much everywhere together, even most recently on a small domestic flight, and it has to be said she travels better than most humans.
I had some extremely inquisitive passengers on the flight asking me all about how me and Tara worked together, and what sorts of things she was able to do for me.
I came away feeling like we’d spread our own little piece of awareness that day, knowing that those people wouldn’t think twice in future about seeing a dog on a plane, or laying quietly at their owner's side in a restaurant.
Access should be something that knows no boundaries, whether that's because of class, race or disability.
To help Guide Dogs spread awareness about its Access All Areas campaign you can visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/campaigns and share it through your social media accounts.