The CNIB Foundation and the Toronto Police Service are raising awareness about the rights of guide dog teams and the legal responsibilities of business owners
Victoria Nolan, Head, Stakeholder Relations and Community Engagement, CNIB Guide Dogs teamed up with Constable Jason Peddle to deliver this message during September's Guide Dog Awareness Month.
“I think the message is strengthened when police are sharing it,” said Nolan, who lost her sight due to a degenerative eye disease. "Allowing guide dogs into your business is not just a nice thing to do. It’s the law.”
A few years ago, police responded inappropriately after Nolan reported that she was denied access to a public place because she had a guide dog. Today, she works with TPS to ensure everyone is educated.
Peddle, the Service’s Vulnerable Person co-ordinator, met Nolan through the TPS Disability Community Consultative Committee.
“She requested that we spread awareness internally, so mistakes won't be made,” he said. “We have done a couple of initiatives to ensure officers are made aware of the legislation and the responsibilities of service providers.”
Ontario was the first province to pass a law guaranteeing blind persons the legal right to be accompanied by a guide dog in all public places. The Ontario Blind Persons’ Rights Act also guarantees the right to equal housing opportunities.
“The legislation enables police to enforce a $5,000 fine,” said Peddle. “It’s not a set fine. It’s a summons to court.”
Thirteen years ago, Nolan transitioned to a guide dog after using a white cane.
“The guide dog completely opened up my life and allowed me a lot more freedom and independence,” she said. “I had a lot of fear going out alone as it’s quite scary when you are outside and you're not able to see. When you have a guide dog, you have a companion that’s looking out for you. They give you confidence. The harness provides information about where the dogs are moving and you follow it, based on what you are feeling through the harness.”