The World Blind Union (WBU) joins the rest of the world in observing International Guide Dogs Day (IGDD) on Wednesday April 29th.
International Guide Dogs day is observed annually on the last Wednesday of April. It highlights the critical role that these service animals also referred to as “working dogs” or “seeing eye dogs”, play in enabling persons who are blind or partially sighted to avoid obstacles and travel safely, confidently, and independently.
In order to avoid contracting Covid-19 and observe proper social distancing practices, persons who are blind or partially sighted are now forced to either stay home with no access to essential services, or to find creative means to travel independently when absolutely necessary. This is where the role of properly trained Guide Dogs becomes very important. Their use significantly decreases the need for physical interaction of a blind or partially sighted person with others.
The World Blind Union therefore takes this opportunity to lobby governments and policy makers to develop and implement legislation to eliminate discrimination against the use of Guide Dogs in public spaces: to encourage the general public to extend social distancing practices to Guide Dogs, and to inform persons who are blind or partially sighted that although there is no evidence of dogs contracting Covid-19, research has shown that they can act as a fomite (surface) for the spread of disease, that is, they can carry the virus or parts of the virus on their coats, nose or mouth and so it is necessary that proper hygiene be practiced more frequently, not only for yourself, but for anyone who will be caring for your Guide Dog if you are unwell.
As the world develops strategies to cope with the effects of this pandemic and to eventually eradicate it, WBU will continue to advocate on behalf of our members. Our aim is to ensure that persons with disabilities, especially those who are blind and partially sighted are not deprived of their rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), and that they remain on governments’ agenda as they continue to strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).