The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is taking the lead in launching a pan-European guide dog movement, meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels next Tuesday.
The European Guide Dog Forum (EGDF) will bring together guide dog providers and service users from across Europe, as well as representatives from the European Blind Union and the European Disability Forum. Through EGDF, members will aim to improve the legal rights of access for people using guide dogs, thereby increasing the independence and life quality for many thousands of blind and partially sighted people.
In the UK, rights of access to services for guide dog owners are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, but similar legislation varies considerably – from excellent to poor – throughout the European Union.
Richard Howitt MEP – Chair of the Disability Intergroup – said: "I’m delighted with the British government’s commitment to guide dog owners, which puts The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in a leading position to encourage similar legislation in other EGDF member states."
Tom Pey, Guide Dogs’ Director of Policy & Development added: "Guide dog providers across the EU are united in the belief that many more blind and partially sighted people would benefit from guide dog ownership if they could be assured the same access rights as everyone else. Walking into shops, restaurants, hotels and using public transport should be an everyday experience for guide dog owners. However, at the moment, they face a discrimination lottery with their rights of access varying considerably from country to country."