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July 12, 2012

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Guide dogs not always accepted in public

SOME visually impaired people are still having difficulties taking public transport with their guide dogs more than one year after such canines were legally allowed to enter public venues.

A Shanghai Daily investigation has found many transport industry workers are unaware of the law.

Some Metro employees, cabbies and bus drivers still don't know they must accept guide dogs on trains and vehicles.

Perhaps the confusion is due to a law that bans pet dogs from public venues, including transport, in nearly all cities in China, including Shanghai.

"Public friendliness to guide dogs in Shanghai has been improving since the local law passed," said Song Yu, an official with the Shanghai Disabled Persons Federation. "But some blind people have told us they have been refused or challenged when traveling in public with their guide dogs. The situation is more common on suburban bus routes than in downtown. It's mostly because the bus drivers had never heard of the guide dog rule."

A national law regulating barrier-free access to public facilities for the handicapped will take effect on August 1. It includes a stipulation allowing guide dogs on public transport.

Some communities have long campaigned for the visually impaired to travel with their guide dogs in public amid repeated reports they have been bluntly refused entry to venues because of their guide dogs.

Song said the city's transport watchdogs had set up regular contact with her federation to follow up on complaints from guide dog masters. Transport authorities have actively promoted the rule in the past year, she added.

However, it appears that the problem of uninformed public transport workers is not just in the suburbs.

A Shanghai Daily reporter visited Nanjing Road W. Station and Jing'an Temple Station on Metro Line 2. About half of the station workers interviewed said they would allow guide dogs to enter after checking related certificates. However, the others said they had not heard of such a rule.

Taxi drivers were also split in their attitude. Some cabbies said they would agree to allow guide dogs in their taxis, but others said they would refuse because they think the large dogs are intimidating and may carry viruses.

Shanghai launched a government-supported guide dog program in 2007. Sixteen certified guide dogs are now serving their blind masters and two others are being trained.


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