European Guide Dog Federation News
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Slovenia Hosts 8th EGDF Conference 

Delegates and their guide dogs pose for a group photo at the Brdo Conference Centre

Left:  Conference hosts Emil Urbancil and Darinka Lecnik-Urbancl of Slo-Canis, Slovenian Guide and Assistance Dog School.  Right:  Conference Facilitator Dr Simon Adderley, University of Birmingham Business School.

More than 40 delegates from 16 European countries convened in Slovenia for EGDF's 8th Conference on April 14th to 16th.  The conference programme focused on the many challenges facing the 25,000 guide dog and other assistance dog owners each day. The conference addressed the difficulties of guide dogs having rights of access and the limitations of institutions and regulations that should protect them.  Read more

EGDF Building Bridges

International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) Seminar in Hvar, Croatia, May 19th - 22nd

The seminar had a full programme of presentations and workshops on a variety of subjects including the history and the future of the guide dog movement and workshops of special interest to developing organisations.

Mira Katalenic and her team at  Croatian Guide Dog and Mobility Association hosted the event and organised the facilities.  Mira has been a valuable EGDF board member since 2010 and retired at the annual general meeting in April.
IGDF have appointed an access committee recognising how essential it is for trained dogs to have the freedom of access in order to be able to perform their duties.  IGDF support the important work EGDF are doing in Europe, the continent with the world's largest concentration of guide dogs. Prior to the conference the two organisations had signed a Memorandum of Understanding, a framework for working together in their areas of common interest. The new board confirmed its commitment to work with EGDF.
Mister Ante Babić, ambassador of the President of the Republic of Croatia, welcoming Judith Jones, David Adams and Darinka Lecnik-Urbancl after he opened the IGDF seminar.
Assistance Dogs International (ADI) Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, May 15th - 17th

Again EGDF was pleased to be invited to attend the conference of ADI, a fast-growing organisation with more and more assistance dogs helping people with an ever-widening range of disabilities.  Mark VanGelder, the  liaison with EGDF, reminded delegates that the joint petition the two organisations submitted to the European Parliament is still awaiting acceptance.  They also discussed the common need for an access data base, both for evidencing the scale of the problem to lawmakers and potentially as a first resolution of access denials.

European Disability Forum (EDF) Annual General Assembly in Dublin, Ireland, May 21st - 22nd

EDF represents 80 million disabled people in Europe and EGDF ensures that the guide dog voice is heard.  

The delegates in Dublin discussed the ethical and legal issues regarding the capacity of disabled persons to make decisions about themselves and how different countries approach this.  Although not particularly relevant to EGDF members, it was a very interesting session.

The session on EDF work plan priorities was more pertinent, including discussions about the European Accessibility Act and EDF's review and feedback to the European Commission. During this session our board member and delegate Andrew Lamb described the EGDF proposal to develop a social media-based access refusal recording system and suggested that the EDF consider this in its work plan.   In discussions with EDF the following week they supported the proposal and will assist in developing it.  

Amongst the 200 attendees  only Andrew and an Irish woman were accompanied by guide dogs.

Guide Dogs Lobby UK Parliament

Access All Areas

120 guide dog owners meet their Members of Parliament to support  better access for guide dogs

Left: guide dog owners arrive outside Parliament from all over the UK.  Centre: they gather in the 600-year-old Westminster Hall to meet their local Members of Parliament.   Right:  EGDF President David Adams makes the case for better access to his MP Jeremy Wright, the Attorney General. 

A large number of MPs and members of the House of Lords came into Westminster Hall to discuss the real life barriers faced by guide dog owners going about their daily lives.  People described their problems entering restaurants, hotels and particularly taxis.  A recent UK survey shows that 75% of guide dog owners have encountered at least one access refusal in the past year and they were there to persuade their elected representatives to take these seriously. These rejections can undermine a blind person's confidence and discourage them from going out.
David Adams was a featured speaker at an event organised by the European Forum Against Blindness and the European Coalition for Vision in the European Parliament on April 20th to increase awareness amongst European Parliamentarians about prevention of sight loss.

Ioanna Gertsou, EGDF board member and president of Lara Guide Dog School in Greece was threatened with arrest when a bus driver called the police to make her guide dog May get off the bus.  Ioanna knows that Greek law allows a guide dog on all public transport so when she went to the police station it was the bus driver who was fined €300 for denying access and he was sued for discrimination.  Athens Transport was obliged to apologise publicly to Ioanna and the following message is now displayed in every Athens bus, metro and tram station:  "Notice to passengers:  Guide dogs for the blind are allowed on public transport".

Vesna Nestorovic, the president of The Associations Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired of Serbia "White Cane“ is a busy woman.  Last year she was instrumental in enacting Serbia's Law of Independent Movement with a Guide Dog and also became Serbia's first guide dog user.

Recently she convinced Air Serbia to drop their requirement for guide dogs to be muzzled on flights and is working with Belgrade airport on toilets for assistance dogs, paths accessible for people with a white cane, Braille signage, wheelchair ramps and accessible counters for the deaf. 
Copyright © 2016 European Guide Dog Federation, All rights reserved.

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