COUNCIL Chairman Barry McElduff has taken the lead in helping Fermanagh’s guide dogs gain access to the county’s shops, restaurants and other public places.
Cllr McElduff teamed up with Guide Dogs Northern Ireland in support of the charity’s ‘Open Doors’ campaign which aims to protect the rights of guide dog owners.
The law gives guide dog owners the right to access businesses and services without discrimination.
However, according to Guide Dogs NI, 81 per cent of assistance dog owners have been refused access to a restaurant, shop or taxi at some point because of their dog.
Being refused access has a significant negative impact on the confidence, independence and wellbeing of people who use assistance dogs.
Cllr McElduff said: “I was delighted to meet Torie Tennant and the Guide Dogs NI Team to find out more about some of the difficulties experienced by those with assistance dogs.
“I would encourage all businesses and organisations to support the open door campaign to ensure that everyone feels welcome in local businesses, premises and various modes of transport.”
Guide dog owner Torie Tennant stated that businesses should take heed of the law regarding access for support dogs as her experiences in being refused entry left her feeling “like a second class citizen”.
She added: “When I’ve been refused access in the past, it has been crushing. It’s a lower standard of service than anyone else would expect. If it’s getting a taxi or going for a meal we shouldn’t be denied entry.
“It makes me feel like a second class citizen and it would make me question whether I want to revisit a business in case I’ll be refused.
Guide Dogs NI is seeking volunteers in the local area to support with fundraising and sighted guiding those living with a vision impairment.
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