‘Systemic issue’: Blind and low vision Australians denied entry to public spaces with Seeing Eye Dogs

12 May 2021

Blind and low vision people with Seeing Eye Dogs are being turned away from various public places including taxis and restaurants in what is being called a ‘systemic issue’.

Chris Edwards, manager of advocacy and government relations for Vision Australia, is blind and has had his Seeing Eye Dog Odie for eight years.

In the space of one week, Edwards said he was recently denied entry into two rideshare vehicles and a restaurant. In Australia, Seeing Eye Dogs are legally allowed into all public spaces, excluding a small number of areas such as operating theatres and commercial kitchens.

Chris said it’s all too common for Seeing Eye Dog handlers to be denied access to public spaces, describing it as ‘systemic issue for blind and low vision people’ and further education on the problem is urgently needed.

Being denied access to a public place is embarrassing and discriminatory for handlers, Chris said.

‘The access rights of Seeing Eye Dogs and their handlers are protected by law across Australia, but unfortunately we still need more awareness about where Seeing Eye Dogs are allowed to go.

“The more understanding we have of this, the closer we’ll be to creating an inclusive society for people who are blind or have low vision.”

Chris is part of a Vision Australia delegation, including multiple Seeing Eye Dog handlers and three Seeing Eye Dog puppies visiting Canberra this week to highlight the importance of Seeing Eye Dogs access rights and meet with decision makers, including Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston.

“Seeing Eye Dogs and other guide dogs play a vital role in the lives of people who are blind or have low vision and it’s important people recognise and understand the access rights they are granted by law,” Minister Ruston said.

“I’m looking forward to discussing this with Vision Australia and I am also excited to meet some of the newest Seeing Eye Dog puppies who will go on to help change the lives of people who are vision impaired.”

The Vision Australia delegation will be at Parliament House on Wednesday, May 12 from 12pm-2pm. Members of Parliament, staff and others are encouraged to visit the delegation and learn more about the valuable work of Vision Australia and Seeing Eye Dogs.

Ron Hooton, Vision Australia CEO, said the delegation is extremely thankful to Minister Ruston for agreeing to meet with them.

"Vision Australia is committed to advocating on behalf of the blind and low vision community and we appreciate when people take the time to meet with us and better understand the issues our community faces.

"Working together, we can continue to improve conditions and opportunities and support people who are blind or have low vision to live the life they choose."

For further media enquiries: Phil McCarroll, 0416 632 253