As the world prepares to celebrate International Guide Dog Day on April 27, it’s worth reflecting on the vital role these special animals play in the lives of blind and vision-impaired people to get around independently and safely.
Taxis are often a preferred mode of transport for people with guide dogs so it’s imperative taxi drivers are aware of and alert to their needs. In fact, by law you must allow guide dogs to travel in your taxi with their handler, or fines can apply.
So taxis can help guide dogs carry on their important community work, here are some tips about how best to interact with these special kinds of passengers:
- The handler can choose where to sit with their dog. Most handlers will sit with the dog in the footwell between their feet if possible.
- Guide dogs should be clearly identifiable by their coat or harness. If in doubt, just politely ask, “Is this an assistance dog?”
- If you are nervous around dogs please just let the handler know – they will often face their dog away to make you more comfortable. Guide dogs are well trained and will not jump, bite or lick you.
- Guide dogs should be well cared for and clean, fully vaccinated and health checked regularly.
- Ask the handler if they need help before assisting them.
Blindness and low vision and the way it impacts on a person is not always well understood within the community. It is important all road users know how to identify people who are blind or have low vision, to improve how they interact with them on our streets.
People who are blind or have low vision have less information to rely on when making critical decisions about where and when to cross the road. Other senses, such as hearing, can assist, but do not compensate for the loss of vision.
People who are vision-impaired may use a white cane to help them get around. There are three main types of canes:
- identification cane
- long cane
- support cane
When driving, riding a motorcycle or bicycle, it is important to be patient with pedestrians and to recognise that people who use canes or dogs may take longer to cross the road. Also be aware that a person who is vision impaired may not make eye contact, or respond to visual gestures.
It is important that all of us who use the road network follow the road rules to ensure we arrive at our destination safely and learn how to share the road with all road users, including people who are blind or have low vision.
Guide Dogs Victoria celebrates
To raise awareness of the important role guide dogs play, Guide Dogs Victoria is bringing dogs to the State Library with a striking exhibition of decorative ‘art collection dogs’.
Guide Dog Victoria’s collection dogs can be spotted at most Victorian supermarkets and RSLs. These are fantastic fundraisers for Guide Dogs Victoria, collecting about half a million dollars in loose change annually.
A group of artists and Melbourne secondary schools have been set a challenge of turning these dogs into works of art, inspired by the real stories of Guide Dogs Victoria clients and the difference their dogs make in their lives.
These ‘art-dogs’ will be on display at the State Library in an exhibition opening on International Guide Dog Day, and running for two weeks. During this time it will be open to the public, with online bidding available for the final auction of these unique artworks.
What to look out for on International Guide Dog Day:
- Look out for bright orange T-shirts as clients, volunteers and staff of Guide Dogs Victoria gather in Federation Square at 9.30am on April 27 and walk together to the State Library for the exhibition opening.
- Giant collection dog Gulliver will be ‘parked’ on the library steps to help promote the exhibition – at 4.5 m high he’ll be impossible to miss.
- The annual International Guide Dog Day Victorian Vision Awards will be held in the evening at a cocktail party in the State Library. These awards recognise Victorians who have made a significant contribution to helping people with vision impairment.
The number of guide dogs working in the community increased from 199 in 2013 to 213 in 2015, according to Guide Dogs Victoria’s 2015 Annual Report.