Help Open Doors For Our Helpers

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Stand Together To Open Eyes And Open Doors

Have you ever had the experience of being refused access or yelled at and told to get out of  your bank, library, tax and license departments, and even a beach because your companion isn't welcome? It's happened to me many times in both countries because of my companion, my guide dog Wagner. You feel like a second-class citizen, when all you are trying to do is to live a normal  life just like everyone else.

Much as the civil rights movement in the U.S. sought to break down the barriers of discrimination against people because they are a different color, we are trying to do the same for people who can't see as well, hear as well, or walk as well as everyone else, and who rely on their faithful Guide Dogs or Assistance Dogs to go all the places that normally sighted people go. This effort wouldn't be necessary in the U.K., the Republic of Ireland, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Korea, Australia or New Zealand because all of them protect the rights of human beings and their Guide Dogs with the kind of legislation we are trying to obtain.

I have formed The Laura and Wagner Foundation (LWF), a Curaçao-based non-profit organization whose mission is to serve as an advocate for disabled people of all ages in Curaçao and the Netherlands Antilles by:

•    Lobbying for legislation that will end the social isolation and protect the human rights and integrity of people who can't see as well, hear as well, or walk as well as the rest of us, including access for their Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs

•    Helping disabled people in Curaçao and the Netherlands Antilles obtain resources that can help them achieve more independence and mobility such as Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs

•    Producing educational, recreational and vocational conferences, media and online programs and resources that provide blind and visually impaired individuals with enhanced opportunities for self-improvement and independence

•    Coordinating the development of supportive community and workplace resources to promote the integration of blind and visually impaired people into productive employment and training opportunities

•  Advocating integrative support systems within public and private communications and transportation sectors to improve communications and mobility options for blind and visually impaired individuals

As I detailed in the Press Release announcing the Foundation, “I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing it for disabled people in Curaçao and the Netherlands Antilles to let them know they don’t have to be shut away in shamed isolation, like a 12 year old boy I know of, and that there are mobility, educational, recreational and vocational resources out there that they might not be aware of that can help to liberate them. That’s what the Foundation will help make them aware of and gain access to.”

We also want to raise the awareness of normally sighted people and get them to sign this petition  to build a grassroots level of support for Equal Access legislation that will allow disabled people and their guide dogs to go everywhere normally-sighted people go. “Someone said to me, they don’t ask people to take off their glasses when they go into a library, or restaurant, so why should I have to leave  “my eyes” outside the door?”

Part of raising awareness about guide dogs is to let the public and policy makers know that they are used not only by blind and visually impaired people, but also by the deaf and hearing impaired, people in wheelchairs, and even epileptics. Recent research is noticing that dogs may also be able to tell when a diabetic is about to experience a dangerous drop in their blood sugar level. The dogs are always kept clean, and are specially trained not to bite, poop or pee. In fact, Wagner travels on the ten-hour KLM flight from Amsterdam to Curaçao in the passenger cabin and has never caused a problem.

The purpose of the effort, as I said in the Press Release, is two-fold: “to raise awareness for people who need guide dogs and the people who need to let them in. We want you to “Open Your Doors For Our Eyes”.  And by doing so, and by signing the petition for Equal Access Rights, you help your own people, and also let the world know that the Netherlands Antilles welcome people and their guide dogs from around the world. This country has an opportunity to lead the Netherlands on this front, because lawmakers in Holland protect the rights of individuals against discrimination, but not guide dogs or other service animals”.

The Foundation is also meant to be complementary to the work of Pro Bista and other organizations working to improve the well being of disabled people in the Netherlands Antilles.  As I mentioned in a meeting with Education and Health Minister Omayra Leeflang , “Arm in arm there is so much more that we can achieve to end the isolation and diminished expectations that face disabled people in our communities”.

You can make a huge difference
by adding your name to the petition that Wagner and I will use to lobby for legislation in the Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands to allow blind and visually impaired people and their guide dogs to enter all public buildings, shops, restaurants and institutions, and use all forms of public transportation without discrimination.

You can also make a difference through Corporate Sponsorships or Individual Donations. Click here for more information on how to do so.

Thank you for your kind support.

Laura & Wagner

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Guide Dog Accessibility (Excerpt from Wikipedia)

Despite regulations or rules that deny access to animals in restaurants and other public places, in many countries, guide dogs and other types of assistance dogs are protected by law, and therefore may accompany their handlers most places that are open to the public. Laws and regulations vary worldwide:

  • In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits any business, government agency, or other organization that provides access to the general public from barring guide dogs. However, religious organizations are not required to provide such access. The Fair Housing Act requires that landlords allow tenants to have guide dogs in residences that normally have a No Pets policy and no extra fees may be charged for such tenants. Whether guide dogs in training have the same rights or not usually falls on each individual state government.
  • In most South American countries and Mexico, guide dog access depends solely upon the goodwill of the owner or manager. In more tourist-heavy areas, guide dogs are generally welcomed without problems. In Brazil, however, a 2006 federal decree [2] requires allowance of guide dogs in all public and open to public places. The Brasília Metro has developed a program which trains guide dogs to ride it.
  • In Europe, the situation varies. Some countries have laws that govern the entire country and sometimes the decision is left up to the respective regions.
  • In Australia, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 protects guide dog handlers. Each state and territory has its own laws, which may differ slightly.
  • In Canada, guide dogs are allowed anywhere that the general public is allowed.
  • Because Islam considers dogs in general to be unclean, many Muslim taxi drivers and store owners have refused to accommodate customers who have guide dogs. In 2003, the Sharia Council, based in the United Kingdom, ruled that the ban on dogs does not apply to those used for guide work,[3] but many Muslims continue to refuse access, and see the pressure to allow the dogs as a restraint on religious liberty.[4] Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain has argued strongly that Sharia does not preclude working with guide dogs, and it is actually a duty under Sharia for a Muslim to help the visually impaired.
  • In South Korea, it is illegal to deny access to guide dogs in any areas that are open to the public. Violators are fined for no more than 2 million South Korean won. [5]