To EGDF Members:
CEN, the European Committee for Standardisation has created a Technical Committee to develop European standards for guide and assistance dogs.
The first meeting will be in Zagreb on December 13.
The deadline for delegate registration is November 25.
Should you be there?
What's it about?
An overview of guide dog standards in Europe
This summer, on the basis of the two workshop agreements, CEN proposed to the national standards organisations in Europe to create a Technical Committee to carry the standardisation work forward. The countries have agreed and the Croatian national standards organization have volunteered to be the committee’s secretariat. Each national standards organization can be represented. EGDF have been invited as non-voting technical experts on behalf of Brussels-based European Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardization, (ANEC). Marijan Alfonzo Sesar, Ph.D., director of Rehabilitation Centre Silver in Zagreb is the first to put himself forward as chairperson.
Guide dogs have been progressively accepted throughout Europe during the past century. In 2009 the European Civil Aviation Convention (ECAC) allowed “recognised” assistance dogs to travel in the cabin of the aircraft. In so doing, they defined “recognised” as a dog that has been trained to assist a disabled person by an organisation that is accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and/or the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). Over the years, other service providers have used this definition when allowing access for assistance dogs.
Another attempt at defining European standards occurred in 2011 and 2012 when EGDF participated with six guide dog schools and other interested organisations in a project funded by the European Commission: European Guide Dog Mobility Standards (EGDMS). The outcome of the project was CWA 16520:2012 ‘Guide Dog Mobility Instructor Competencies’. CWA stands for European Committee for Standardisation Workshop Agreement (CWA) (in French Comité européen de normalization, CEN). In 2016 a further agreement, proposed by Slovenian Instructors Association, was adopted: CWA 16979:2016 ‘Dog Training Professionals Knowledge, Skills and Competency Requirements’.
During this time Ismail Ertug MEP asked a question in the European Parliament in 2012, “. . . Even when EC law regulates access for assistance dogs, there is frequently no clear definition of 'recognised assistance dogs' . . . and private interest groups from dog training institutions (such as ADI and IGDF) therefore monopolise the authority to issue recognition. What steps is the European Commission taking to guarantee blind citizens of the Union the same freedom of movement as sighted citizens? Are there any plans to harmonise the recognition of assistance dogs and to enable a free choice of trainer, even going outside the international interest groups of dog training institutions.”
Answer given . . . on behalf of the Commission: "The Commission attaches great importance to removing barriers to the freedom of movement for . . . visually impaired people using guide dogs. . . . On 11 June 2012 the Commission published interpretative guidelines on the application of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air. These guidelines contain a section on guide and assistance dogs. In addition, the regulations on passenger rights travelling by rail, waterborne transport, and bus or coach all contain specific provisions [for] . . . blind people and guide dogs. . . . Presently, the Commission has no plans for harmonisation of the recognition of guide dogs. However, the Commission is supporting the European Guide Dog Mobility Standards (EGDMS) project, a research undertaking which may present conclusions and recommendations on this subject. The EGDMS project is expected to be finished by the end of 2012. The Commission has also concluded a three year partnership agreement with . . . EGDF which receives a subsidy of its operating costs. The Commission will consult with the EGDF and other relevant civil society organisations prior to planning any further steps in this area." . . .
This meeting will mark a significant step in Europe which will affect the authority of IGDF and ADI and may impact agreements already concluded with companies outside the EU which affect Europe. If you have not been contacted by your national standards organisation, get in touch with them without delay if you are prepared to attend. If you will be attending, please let me know. It is essential that we have broad representation of knowledgeable and experienced delegates to ensure that we have an effective outcome.