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The importance of disability awareness training - Access All Areas

Raising awareness for a better future – Gary Mazin

Gary And Gibson 1Guide Dogs is campaigning to reduce the occurrence of access refusals for assistance dog owners. Despite it being illegal under the Equality Act 2010 to refuse access to shops, restaurants, taxis and other services, we sadly hear far too much from guide dog owners who experience humiliating refusals.

In our survey, we found that almost half of guide dog owners have experienced an access refusal in the last year. This is clearly unacceptable and we are campaigning in a number of areas to improve the situation, one of which is to call for mandatory disability awareness training for service providers.

Gary Mazin, a guide dog owner and disability awareness trainer for Enhance the UK explains in the following blog why it is so important, and also hugely beneficial to all service providers.

“It took a long time for me to come to terms with my sight loss, but there came a point when I simply had to face up to my disability as my eyesight deteriorated to the point that my tunnel vision and night blindness meant that I couldn’t walk around on my own unaided. This realisation didn’t happen immediately and it took a lot of time to come to terms with. My life completely changed the day I welcomed Gibson, my guide dog, into my life.

As someone who hated using white canes, I just never truly felt comfortable walking around waving a long white stick. The minute I started walking with Gibson, I realised that it was a match made in heaven.

Over time I realised that having a guide dog has its own issues; access and awareness are the main ones. Quite simply, people don’t know how to act or behave around me and Gibson. The amount of times I’ve been shouted at ‘no dogs’ are too numerous to highlight.

Most people want to do the right thing, and do have good intentions. But sadly, it’s the lack of understanding and awareness that causes so many of these issues. But there is a solution!

I was fortunate to discover Enhance the UK last year, of which I became a fully-fledged member of the team. Enhance the UK is a user-led charity (that means that everyone who works for Enhance as a trainer, has a disability) that provides Disability Awareness Training to organisations, schools and charities across the UK.

Working with Enhance has been the best thing that’s happened to me in my working life, not only do I spend my time with fabulous people who have the empathy and understanding of my disability, but I absolutely love travelling across the UK giving training. Our training is fun, interactive and above all it gets everyone to understand how to communicate to people with disabilities. As our training is pan disability, meaning we work with people with different disabilities, we cover both physical and sensory disabilities and it's been really eye opening to me too.

I’m hopeful that the more training that we give, people will be more confident and willing to talk and treat people with disabilities exactly the same way as everyone else. It’s about removing that stigma, and erasing that fear factor.

I’m still surprised how few people know how to help guide someone with a visual impairment, or understand that guide dogs are allowed by law nearly everywhere that their owner goes. Through the training we provide, I feel that I’m making a positive difference to help disabled people across the UK, to eradicate the prejudice and discrimination that we are still facing.

To find out more about Enhance the UK, or if you’d simply like to share your own story then please get in touch . You can also email me directly - I’d love to hear from you and answer any of your questions.

Visit  Guide Dogs’ Access All Areas campaign to find out how you can help.

Posted on 12:57pm Tue 19 Apr 2016
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Someone asked me recently how many times I'd been refused service because of having a guide dog. It's maybe a bit like asking someone how many times they've been mugged. Read the full post

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Visual impairment is a fact of life for many thousands of people in the UK. We’re campaigning alongside them for the rights that many sighted people take for granted. Our blog is written by staff and volunteers who are campaigning on issues affecting those with sight loss. If you would like to write a blog post please email us.

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