International Guide Dog Day on Wednesday 29 April 2015 is all about recognising the vital role these special animals play in enabling people who are blind or vision impaired to get around safely and independently.
The NSW Taxi Council is delighted to offer continued support to its friends at Guide Dogs NSW/ACT to highlight the benefit Guide Dogs provide to hundreds of people with vision loss.
CEO of the NSW Taxi Council Roy Wakelin-King said that taxis provide a universal service in the provision of door-to-door public transport, and highlighted that regulated taxi services are aware of the laws that allow people with Guide Dogs to travel in taxis and other forms of public transport.
“The NSW Taxi Industry recognises the importance of providing excellent service to all customers including those who need the assistance of Guide Dogs,” Mr Wakelin-King said.
“We have invested significantly in raising awareness amongst taxi drivers and operators in ensuring that the transport needs of people with vision impairment are met.”
For nearly 10 years Guide Dogs/NSW ACT has been participating in NSW Taxi Council-run monthly taxi driver training seminars, so drivers are able to cater for all passengers and manage bookings for people as efficiently as possible while maintaining high standards.
Jennifer Moon, Community Education Coordinator for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT highlighted that at these seminars, a person with a Guide Dog instructs taxi drivers on how to best assist passengers with a vision impairment and who might be travelling with a Guide Dog.
“This training has been important to ensure people who are blind or vision impaired who travel with a Guide Dog or any other mobility aid can easily access their communities, just like everyone else,” said Ms Moon.
“We appreciate the NSW Taxi Council’s support on International Guide Dog Day, especially as we’re launching a new education campaign to mark the day called ‘It’s time to end Guide Dog discrimination’.
“The campaign aims to address results from a recent survey that showed 53% of NSW and ACT residents who have a Guide Dog experienced discrimination in the past year, the largest percentage of these instances (40%) occurring within cafes and restaurants.
“Unfortunately while dining out was identified as the top issue, taxis and shopping centres were listed as other problem areas. So we’re hoping through continued training of taxi drivers, along with other industry sectors, discrimination against people with Guide Dogs comes to an end.”
Mr Wakelin-King highlighted that “the NSW Taxi Industry is committed to ongoing training of taxi drivers to continue to improve services for people with Guide Dogs.”
Ms Moon added that NSW taxi drivers have shown their appreciation to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT with generous donations which now total more than $45,000.
“This has resulted in a full sponsorship of one Guide Dog, Darcy, who graduated from training in September 2014, and over half way towards a second Guide Dog.
“It takes two years and more than $30,000 to breed, raise and train a Guide Dog.
“Currently there are approximately 260 working Guide Dogs in NSW and the ACT, and with the number of people with a vision impairment set to increase in Australia by 20% by the end of this decade, demand on services is growing every day.”
Mr Wakelin-King said “as an industry we are honoured to provide donations to support people who require the assistance of a Guide Dog and it is pleasing that we are now well on the way to the sponsorship of second dog”.
“It is a valuable partnership and one that we wish to build on into the future.”
To learn more about Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s ‘It’s time to end Guide Dog discrimination’ campaign please visit: https://guidedogs.com.au/guide-dog-discrimination