By Victoria Nolan, Head, Stakeholder Relations & Community Engagement
Despite legislation that makes it illegal to deny access or refuse service to a guide dog handler, it happens every day in Canada.
While it is important to draw attention to the access issues that guide dog handlers face across the country, it is also important to highlight occasions when things are done right.
The negative experiences aren't just about access, sometimes you are allowed in a restaurant, but the host seats you in a far corner away from the other diners, or no one actually asks you to leave the business, but you get the cold treatment or employees tell you they have to check with their manager to see if guide dogs are allowed.
It is a constant weight on our shoulders. We're always wondering if these scenarios are going to occur, or if we can just be treated like everyone else. It is such a privilege to be able to just go about your business without having to explain yourself and your rights. Because of this, a positive experience means being treated just like any other customer.
I remember the first time I went to what has become my favorite restaurant. I am always nervous going to a place for the first time and often just stick to places I know to avoid the stress.
I was with my husband and two children. We entered the double doors and waited to be seated. The hostess greeted us and brought us to a booth in the middle of the restaurant, told us the specials and said our server would be right with us. It was as though I didn't even have my guide dog with me.
Another positive experience was when I went into Tim Hortons, ordered my coffee, sat down with my friends, drank it, and then left without any incident. You get the idea, it doesn't take much to have a positive experience, it's just being treated like any other customer.
Feeling normal is the dream of many people with disabilities and this is a dream that can be fulfilled when businesses practice common courtesy.
Guide dogs should be welcome everywhere. It's the law!