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WBU Statement for International Guide Dogs day 25 April 2018

On April 25, we celebrate International Guide Dogs Day, a day that encourages us to recognise the pivotal role guide dogs play in enabling people with sight loss get around safely and independently.

However, the World Blind Union is concerned about stringent restrictions and bureaucratic procedures being imposed by some airlines which are making travel more difficult for people using guide dogs.

According to the Chief Executive Officer for the World Blind Union, Dr. Penny Hartin, some airlines are increasing restrictions due to proliferation of travellers with "comfort dogs".  

"While we recognise that airlines are entitled to enact certain restrictions, we the blind people should not be penalised because of other people travelling with comfort dogs", says Dr. Hartin, a guide dog user and a frequent traveller. She observes that guide dogs are well trained by certified schools and therefore such restrictions are unnecessary.

Ms. Martine Abel-Williamson, the World Blind Union Treasurer and a guide dog user argues that training of guide dogs and accreditation guidelines have been standardised for many years hence users should not be penalised with unnecessary restrictions.

"Establishing additional bureaucratic procedures is an insult and a step back in terms of our right to travel independently and with dignity" says Ms. Abel-Williamson.

The Chair of the World Blind Union's Youth committee and a user of a guide dog, Ms. Diane Bergeron, states that guide dog users have a right to access public spaces. "We also have a responsibility to make sure that our dogs are behaving properly and that we work with airlines to ensure that our rights are being upheld in a way that works for both parties", she says.

The World Blind Union is calling on airlines to recognise and respect the crucial role that guide dogs play in the lives of visually impaired people. In honour of International Guide Dogs Day, the WBU wants airlines to guarantee blind air travellers' safety, dignity, and comfort, the same quality service as all other passengers. 

The WBU also recommends that travel policies and procedures that apply to blind passengers should be developed in consultation with organizations representative of blind people. 

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The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization that represents the estimated 253 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations of blind people advocating on their own behalf and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment. Visit our website at www.worldblindunion.org

For further information, please contact:

Terry Mutuku
Communications Officer, World Blind Union
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