Guide dog bias still out there says local

For International Guide Dog Day one local is advocating for greater awareness of guide dog access rights.

Adrian Eckert has been using guide dogs to get around for the last 25 years, and said a greater understanding of the laws surrounding guide dogs is important.

He said that while most places in town have been great, travelling outside of Broken Hill has presented him with some issues.

“In the past when I’ve gone away, booking accommodation I used to say upfront that I have a guide dog, and in a lot of cases they’d say they have no vacancies,” Adrian said.

“I stopped mentioning I had a guide dog and got the bookings fine,” he said.

“I’ve never been turned away but if I told them up front there wouldn’t be any vacancies.”

According to Guide Dogs NSW one third of guide dog handlers have had access rights challenged when visiting hotels and motels, or been refused entry completely.

Almost two thirds of users have had issues going to restaurants and cafes.

CEO of Guide Dogs NSW, Dr Graeme White, said that the law allows guide dogs to go anywhere a person can, excepting zoos and operating theatres.

Mr Eckert said that his experience with restaurants around town have been positive.

“On the odd occasion they get concerned about food laws around animals but once I explain that he’s a guide dog they’re fine with that,” Mr Eckert said.

“I’ve heard from people in Sydney some restaurant owners have knocked people back, but I’ve never had issues here.”

It is against the law to refuse access to a guide dog and its handler, with police able to issue on-the-spot fines of $165 and penalty notices of up to $880.

Earlier in the year Adrian had accessibility issues with traffic pedestrian crossings, as the audio cues on certain traffic lights weren’t working.

“They let you know that you can cross, and how to go straight across the road by the sound of it, and they weren’t working for six weeks,” Adrian said.

“The council passed that buck to state government because it was a state government road, and that took six plus weeks to get remedied which I don’t think is good enough,” he said.

“I’ve had the odd issue on the road where a car tries it on just to see if the dog will do its job and stop, and people on motorbikes driving around you when you’re crossing at a pedestrian crossing.”

His current guide dog, Casey, has been with him for five years, and is the third guide dog he’s partnered with.

“Guide dogs tend to work for ten years, and then they spend five or so years in retirement,” Adrian said.

“Guide dogs are a mobility tool, they’re not a pet or there for company, they’re doing a job,” he said.

“There $30,000 to train a guide dog and a lot of work goes into it and there’s a lot of work for the owner keeping that training up.”