County Kildare Access Network is encouraging members of the public to be mindful of the needs of guide dog owners during the current pandemic, especially with Halloween approaching. Members of the network who advocate for people with disabilities include access groups from Naas, Newbridge, Celbridge, Athy, disability organisations and local councillors.
Guide dogs are highly trained, sociable working dogs that skilfully steer their blind or vision impaired owner around hazards and obstacles. However, they are not trained to physically distance, are unable to recognise one-way systems in shops and cannot observe signs on public transport stating “Please don’t sit here”.
Guide Dog Owner Kim Murphy who lives in Kildare recommends; “If you see a Guide Dog owner or person with vision impairment needing assistance with the guidelines and restrictions please don’t be afraid to approach them (whilst keeping your distance), state your name and ask if you can help.”
Additional furniture and signs on pathways outside shops and cafés are also causing problems for people with visual impairments and wheelchair users so businesses are encouraged to ensure there is a clear pathway and no obstacles for cane users.
As Halloween approaches the likelihood is that there may be problems caused by illegal fireworks and bangers. Halloween can be a fun time but a very scary time for pets, guide dogs, therapy dogs and people with autism.
Dogs can cope with a certain level of stress but some dogs can be adversely impacted by fireworks which in some cases can lead to a Guide Dog or Assistance Dog’s retirement. Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind have tips on their website to protect your dog from fireworks (https://guidedogs.ie/halloween-a-dangerous-time-for-animals/)
KCAN encourages parents to be vigilant and to discourage the use of bangers and fireworks. Members of the various access groups across the county will also be sharing a cartoon on social media which can be coloured in to help educate young children on the problems caused by fireworks.