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The World Blind Union joins the rest of the world in observing International Guide Dogs day, April 24.

This is a significant day for our community as we honour the fundamental role that guide dogs play in enabling the safe and independent mobility of blind and partially sighted persons.

In line with the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF), guide dogs are carefully trained to help blind and partially sighted persons avoid obstacles and navigate public spaces with confidence, freedom and more independently. Guide dogs make navigating streets much less stressful by assisting their handlers to find locations, avoid obstacles and stop at kerbs. They make it easier for blind and partially sighted persons to use public transport, navigate shopping centres and buildings, find doors, seats and pedestrian crossing buttons. In addition, guide dogs provide companionship and promote social inclusion and interaction with other members of the public.

The World Blind union is therefore concerned about sporadic incidents worldwide where guide dog handlers are denied access to public spaces such as restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, schools, hospitals, public transport such as taxis and even air travel. For example, in January 2018 Delta airlines announced policy changes for those traveling with service and support animals after an 84 percent increase in reported service and support animal incidents since 2016.  Delta also established the Service Animal Support Desk to improve the travel experience for customers traveling with service and support animals.

Sustainable Development Goal 11, obliges State Parties to make cities and public spaces inclusive and safe.

States Parties are further obliged to take effective measures to ensure personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities, in the manner of their choice, as per Article 20 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

We therefore take this opportunity to strongly urge governments to enforce proper legislation and regulations that allow blind and partially sighted persons and their guide dogs access to public spaces without any discrimination.

For more information about guide dogs, visit the International Guide Dog Federation website: https://www.igdf.org.uk/