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Living with blindness has enough hurdles to overcome without being subjected to discrimination but there are improvements starting to happen.
Just recently, Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the QLD State Government will introduce new laws to cut red tape around the permit process for seeing-eye or guide dogs. The announcement was made at a guide dog graduation ceremony in Brisbane advising that people would no longer have to prove their disability every time they renewed their guide dog permit, amongst other changes. These type of small changes that will have a big impact on those effected by the loss of sight.
Losing your vision changes your life dramatically and the last thing they need is to be discriminated against. The everyday activities that become difficult or near impossible. There are many types of vision impairment and each has a different effect on a person’s ability to see and on their mobility. Having a guide dog is essential for some people and their link to leading an independent life and the outside world. These dogs are highly trained and intuitive to the person’s welfare and needs.
People in the company of a Seeing Eye Dog puppy, dog in training or working dog, have a right of access to all public spaces and services. Vision Australia’s research shows that many people experience discrimination when out with a Seeing Eye Dog or puppy in public places.
A few years ago, a NSW taxi driver was in big trouble after refusing a fare from a passenger with a guide dog because he claimed he was allergic to dogs. NSW Taxi Council said under the Passenger Transport Act a driver could only refuse to transport a person on one of two conditions; either the driver believes they are at risk of physical harm, or they do not believe the passenger can afford the fare, in which case they can ask to see proof of funds. Being allergic to dogs did not constitute sufficient reason to discriminate. Fortunately, most taxi drivers are exceptionally accommodating for their blind passengers.
The Disability Discrimination Commissioner has an important responsibility to lead the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. This Act makes disability discrimination unlawful and aims to promote equal rights, opportunity and access for people with disabilities.
So next time you see someone at the local shops with their guide dog, take a step in their shoes and be considerate to them. They are people too!