Petition Updates and Excerpts
Laura and Wagner are gathering signatures on a petition to lobby the governments of Curaçao, and the other islands of the Netherlands Antilles, as well as the Kingdom of the Netherlands to enact legislation that protects the access rights of disabled people who rely on the use of Guide Dogs / Assistance Dogs.
People who are blind or visually impaired, deaf or hearing impaired, or mobility impaired all rely on these so-called service animals to help them achieve the same freedom of mobility as non-disabled people. People with epilepsy also rely on Seizure Dogs to warn them of, and assist them during, a seizure.
This legislation would give disabled people the same freedom of access as non-disabled people.
YOU CAN SIGN THE PETITION HERE.
And below we will provide ongoing updates on the petition's progress, as well as feature some of the most eloquent comments Laura and Wagner's supporters have been kind enough to make. Please visit often for new additions.
March 2008 UpdateLaura and Wagner have been in Amsterdam where Laura enjoyed the school holiday with her children, as well as making contacts to expand support for The Laura and Wagner Foundation and the petition effort for access legislation.
(Many people presume that such access legislation already exists in Holland, but the Kingdom of the Netherlands only protects individuals from discrimination - not guide/assistance dogs. And if access is denied, the onus is on the individual to seek justice, as opposed to having their human rights protected by the State).
Following the schedule in Amsterdam, it's back to Curaçao to tend to the affairs of the Foundation, including a follow-up meeting with Education and Health Minister Omayra Leeflang.
Excerpts From The Petition CommentsAccess to public places is a basic human right. If adaptations for handicapped persons are required these should be made. It is simply not acceptable for blind persons to be denied access if they are accompanied by a guide-dog.
Perhaps flagrant cases should be subjected to a court decision. Whereas some understanding might be extended to these security guards, who present themselves as very 'macho' yet wet their pants in front of even the smallest dog. Most of them are simply doing their (poorly paid) jobs. Not the security guards, but their principals who hire them should be subjected to judicial action.
Frank van Oorsouw | Curaçao
We all need to be part of a community where all disabled people can participate fully as equal citizens!
Alexander Isings | Curaçao
I strongly support this petition. My brother-in-law is also visually impaired and lives in New York city.
He goes EVERYWHERE with this faithful guide dog. If we want Curacao to belong to the globalized world we aren't doing a good job by ignoring the fundamental human rights.
Carol Assang | Curaçao
Some 150 years ago handicapped people used to be mocked at in The Netherlands: blind or deaf people, people wearing spectacles, hunchbacks, stammerers, retarded or crippled ones, etc.
The Dutch language has colourful words for those various handicaps. Fortunately at present those words have for the greater part become obsolete.
Nowadays, children learn to be tolerant towards people who are different. It's called civilization.
Sadly enough,however, there are still persons who are not civilized in this respect, and I understand that that kind also occurs in Curacao, as Laura apparently experienced. Instead of being glad that a handicapped person manages to be independent with the help of a faithful dog (by the way such dogs undergo an expensive training), Laura is treated with impatience.
Schoolteachers, please pay attention to this problem in your lessons, educate the children. Unfortunately grown-ups are harder to educate, but perhaps also those uncivilized grown-ups may see the light. Laura, keep fighting!
Louise J. Westermann-van der Steen | The Netherlands
"Do unto others as you would want them do unto you."
It should not be so hard to identify with Laura. All it takes is putting oneself in her shoes, trying to imagine how the world closes in on a person who is visually impaired. Then ask yourself: What if that was me?
Someday it may be you, or someone close enough to your heart to feel more acutely the suffering.
How God-sent to have a guiding dog like Wagner!
Laws are meant to maintain order, but when laws take from human dignity and freedom they need to be amended.
May my voice all the way from Oklahoma, USA, be heard on behalf of Laura and her faithful companion Wagner.
Louise Pinedo-van Meeteren | USA
In the United States, it is not unusual to see a blind or visually impaired person being led by their guide dog. The dog is trained to help their owner navagate stores, sidewalks, crosswalks, cabs, buildings and whatever other location the owner needs to go.
Using a guide dog not only increases the freedom of the blind to the outside world, the dog also enables the person to work (yes, blind people can work, using computers that talk, among many other types of employment) and to have the opportunity to experience a life that is less dependent on other people.
The dogs are so well trained, they will not soil any building or vehicle they are in, they know that when they are out with their owner, they are focused on one thing. Getting their owner safely to where they are going.
And the guide dogs can be trained by inmates! Yes, that's right. Inmates meeting the strict perameters required can assist in the training of these dogs, which not only defrays the cost of training, it is theraputic to the inmates and actually increases the inmates self confidence when they are released, thus recidivism is lowered.
Please, please for the sake of your countrymen and women who need to be allowed access to a life by having a guide dog, pass a law that allows guide dogs where other animals cannot access. The payback on this is immense, it enhances so many lives, increases the workforce - there is no negative. I thank you for your consideration.
Sharon N. Hope | USA
In England the law obviously states that guide dogs are allowed access everywhere, otherwise the blind/partially blind persons using them are restricted in where they are allowed entry through no fault of there own. The blind rely on the guide dogs to help them get out, about and around, however being refused entry to places because of the dogs is a disgrace.
JUST THINK HOW IT WOULD FEEL IF IT WERE YOU!
Bob Ward | UK
It is very sad when you think that now your live will be more pleasant and normal, and you have to face that you are not being allowed anywhere.
I think this is very sad. My message to those you yell to Laura, DON'T EVER FORGET, TODAY YOU YOU YELL TO SOMEBODY WHO IS IN NEED OF YOUR HELP AND UNDERSTANDING... TOMORROW IT CAN BE YOU WHO WILL NEED HELP AND UNDERSTANDING. HOW WOULD YOU FEEL THEY YELL TO YOU AND TELL YOU TO LEAVE....
Let's be nice to each other, especially to somebody we can help. We never know what can happen to us. God doesn't tell us in advance how our tomorrow will be.
God bless you Laura and I hope that very soon things will be different for you. I am sure Mrs. Omayra Leeflang will do her utmost to help, she is very human.
Ana Booie | Netherlands
Please advocate for Equal Access Rights Legislation for blind and visually impaired people in Curaçao and the Netherlands. This should be a right for all blind and visually impaired person globally.
As you would not take glasses away from someone who needs them to see, do not prevent Access Rights to the visually impaired for whom their Seeing Eye Dog provides "vision".
Beth Forbes | USA
I fully support the petition. I have a dear friend with a guide dog living in North Carolina and as we travel I have experienced first-hand, even here in the U.S., ignorance of the already in existence laws concerning companion dogs.
I applaud Laura and Wagner for their global activism. Sending hope and prayers for an independant, companion accessible future.
Jeanene Hunt | USA
Of course should official guide dogs be allowed to enter where (usually) her 'human' goes. Doesn't every normal thinking organization do that? Do we have to make laws for that?
My experience with a blind co-student was that she found no resistance, or she came in with the explanation her dog was in duty for her sight. 'You're not leaving your eyes at the front door, why should I do it?' she usually said.
Michiel Mastenbroek | Netherlands
All assistance dogs should be allowed to accompany their partners in any place of public accommodation. It is right and humane for those with a disability to be treated with equal respect and dignity.
My sweet 7 year old daughter uses a assistance dog daily. It has given her much independence and higher quality of life.
Nancy | USA
As a child, I was a figure skating instructor for blind kids who attended a school integrating blind and sighted children. I made a lot of friends in the visually impaired community and when they came to my high school, I tutored them in Biology and Spanish.
In exchange, they taught me Braille and shared with me how difficult it is to navigate in a sighted world, but, at the same time, how much they can accomplish given access to the same opportunities those of us who are sighted have.
Making full use of opportunities requires equal access. Guide dogs, specially trained to be on duty, were a regular part of my friends' access to bus services, giving access to the entire city and the buildings that housed a myriad of opportunities.
Traveling with a human companion is not always a viable option and can severely limit the opportunities that can be accessed to contribute fully to our respective societies. I support the petition wholeheartedly.
Mitzi Beno | USA
I am an animal activist, born in Curaçao and living now for 20 years in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is a third world country, but blind dogs are allowed everywhere with their owners. It is terrible that they do not have this right in Curaçao.
Here they are allowed in banks, buses, restaurant, everywhere, they are one with their owners, this should be world wide.
Lilian Schnog | Costa Rica
More to come . . .