Bond: Paul Johns and his family stay in a range of accommodation on holidays and don’t want to encounter difficulty bringing guide dog Keith. Picture: Max Mason-HubersGUIDE dog handler Paul Johns only welcomed Labrador Retriever Keith to his family seven months ago, but said the hound is already “like our third child”.
Mr Johns from Thornton was born with a visualimpairmentand used a cane until about a year ago, when he decided to take the “big step” to apply for a guide dog too.
“Keith has made me a lot happier,” Mr Johns said.
“I was born with my vision and learned to deal with things – it didn’t stop me going anywhere.
“But I did get sick of having to explain it to everyone – it would drive me insane.
“When I would signal a bus they didn’t see the cane and I could be signalling a truck.
“He makes navigating open spaces easier. It’s also safer because my 10 year old son is legally blind as well.”
Working guide dogs are legally allowed in any public place, with the exception of operating theatres and zoos.
But new research released on Wednesday, International Guide Dog Day, found a third of handlers have had their access rights challenged when visiting accommodation providers.
Some of the 110 handlers surveyed last month reported being completely refused entry or being asked to pay an additional bond because they were accompanied by a guide dog.
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has launched a campaign called Taking The Lead, which includes resourcesfor the accommodation sector to inform staff about laws, a guide dog’s function, how to behave around a guide dog and how to offer help to a handler.
“If Keith isn’t allowed to go, I won’t go,” Mr Johns said.