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Help to Set the European Standards for Guide Dogs


How guide dog users and providers can contribute to this 3-year project


Experts from across Europe are being asked to participate in a project to set standards for guide dogs and other assistance dogs under the auspices of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).  This is known as CEN/TC 452.


For over 100 years, standards have evolved for the training of guide dogs.  In recent years the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) has been the guardian of these standards.  More recently, Assistance Dogs International operates similarly to accredit other types of dogs that help persons with disabilities. Guide dogs trained in schools that meet their criteria have access rights, for example, to travel with their owner in the passenger cabin of aircraft free of charge.  Similarly, they are generally entitled to free travel and almost universal access to buildings and services.

Recently, some governments, notably Austria and several Canadian provinces, have set up governmental systems to certify guide dogs. This allows access rights in their country for all qualified guide dogs, regardless of who trained them.  There is a question as to whether these access rights will operate in other countries, hence the need for a European standard.

Representatives of national standards bodies from 11 countries met in Zagreb last December to start work.  Croatia has volunteered the secretariat and the presidency.  The first task was to agree on the title and scope of the standard.  It was agreed to use the term assistance dog to encompass dogs for blind, deaf, wheelchair users, etc. But the committee could not agree whether therapy dogs should also be included in the standard so the question has been sent to the national standards bodies to vote on before the next meeting, which will be in Vienna on 16 May.

We feel that professional guide dog organisations should be represented in the setting of this standard, and you should contact your national standards body.  They choose whether to participate or not, can send delegates to committee meetings and can set up a mirror committee to work in your country between meetings.  The work is a joint effort between two categories of people:
  1. Standards professionals who understand the CEN process and
  2. Experts, like us, in the subject matter under consideration.
We think it is important that people with real practical experience of guide dogs and assistance dogs for disabled people are involved in this process.  Please do all you can to get appointed by your standards body and let us know the outcome.  If you need any further help or information, please contact us.

 

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