Category Archives: Access Laws

Hey Bus Driver…Are You Serious?!!!

Com’ on! Give me a break! When I get on your bus next time, and say ” I want  Spring Garden and Summer street please” in a loud and clear voice, do not think for a minute that you can blow my stop again (like you did today) and YELL AT ME, “You didn’t ask!”, as I get off the bus. Sheesh! Even the guy in the back row heard me tell you where I wanted to get off. Next time, you will ANNOUNCE MY STOP, ’cause if you don’t… I (that is, WE, an entire organization of blind, and partially sighted advocates) will REALLY be inclined to use the incident as the basis for a Human Rights Complaint. I have had it. Metro Transit is spending another million + bucks on security cameras on their buses, because the dirivers’ union told them to?  My bus is held up twice this week for 25 and 45 minutes because the RCMP were asked to board the buses by a nervous driver, to remove some cursing kids from Halifax West Junior High?  Are you serious?  The new microphones pick up sound  on buses (how much did THAT cost?). Give the drivers Tazers and get on with it! You will save a bundle, and I bet the kids will behave a lot better. Not only that, but the buses may be remotely close to being on time!


Hey! Taxi Drivers

Listen up cabbies! I’m going to say this once. Here is the not-so-definitive list of things you need to know when you pick up a customer who is blind or partially-sighted.

  • If you drive a radio cab, or if you get your calls through a computerized dispatch system, chances are that the customer will have specified that they are blind (they should ’cause they can’t expect you to guess). So, when you get to the pick-up location, do not sit in your car and expect the blind person to know that you have arrived.  We are not physic.  It is impossible to know if the nearby idling vehicle I hear is ‘my cab’ or just some other vehicle at this busy location (like a pimpmobile or a  Fed Ex courier or a cab from the wrong company). You must get out of the car and identify yourself as the driver from XYZ cab company. If there is something wrong with your legs, attempt to crank open the window and announce yourself from the comfort of your car.
  • Notice the guide dog with the person? They will have specified this too upon telephoning. Unless you have a medical certificate which exempts you from having a dog in your car (you would croak from the allergic reaction), then  YOU MUST, BY LAW, ACCEPT THE DOG IN YOUR VEHICLE!!! THERE ARE REPERCUSSIONS FOR PEOPLE WHO REFUSE ACCESS TO GUIDE DOGS…AND FINES.
  • Do not charge an ‘extra passenger’ or ‘baggage’ fee for transporting a guide dog (I have experience d this before). If you do so in Halifax, you could lose your taxi permit.
  • If the person with the guide dog wants to sit in the front with their dog, do not freak out. It is my practice to do so, as recommended by the school where I received my dog. I know that other schools have differing philosophies, but this is what I choose. Notice (as you always do) when we get in, that there is actually much more room for the dog in the front between my legs…yes, even (especially) in those monster luxury cars… than in the back behind the seat.  The big hump in the middle of the floor in the back is very constricting. Back seat? No way. If we crash, she will not go flying off a back seat, or be hurled to one side of the cab. It is more comfortable and safer for us both to sit in the front. this works for all cars, even the smallest. She is always well-behaved and will not touch you. (she may sneeze, though, ’cause your car is dusty)
  • Do not think that because your passenger is blind, that you can travel the most indirect route to get to the destination (boosting the fare), ’cause most of us will notice that you have taken a side trip to Ecum Secum on the way to the corner of Barrington and Duke.
  • I miss the old days. Taxi meters ticked back in the day. Now, there is no possible way to determine if the requested fare is what actually appears on the meter…however, do not get the idea that charging $17.50  for a one mile ride is something you can get away with.
  • If your client has a charge slip, or you have a charge slip for them, and you want a signature, then think about how tricky that might be to sign. Me? I won’t sign one. “You sign it”, I say… (you  could be asking me to sign up for donating a kidney for all I know)
  • When you  get to wherever the passenger wants to go, ask if they need assistance to get to the entrance of the building, or at the very least, give precise directions…”the is 5 meters straight ahead”. As I suggest to everyone, saying “over there”  while pointing is useless (and a bit brainless and thoughtless)
  • Alert your passenger if you are dropping them off in a puddle or ice patch. (I once stepped out of a cab, slipped on an icy patch, did a pirouette, landing on my knees, resulting in a bruise and torn jeans)

Psst, Taxi Driver….

Psst, taxi driver…yeah you, the guy working for Yellow Cab who picked me up the other day. Here’s a tip. Actually, it’s a caution. Don’t ever try to sneak on the additional charge to my fare because you’re counting my REGISTERED GUIDE DOG as an ‘extra passenger’ again. And by the guide dog is NOT A CNIB DOG!!!! There’s no such thing! Nor is Opal a Seeing Eye dog…so stop referring to guide dogs by those very inaccurate names.

Guide Dog Riddles

Guide dog Riddle #1

What happens when you pile 5  Guide dogs and seven people into a hotel elevator? ANSWER: Not much. They are quiet and everyone gets to their floors.

Guide dog Riddle #2

What happens when you cram 20 Guide dogs and fourty blind people onto a school bus? ANSWER:  Not much. It’s a tight fit, but the dogs are well behaved amid the clamour of fourty  blind people eagerly anticipating a schooner cruise in Toronto harbour.


Guide dog riddle # 3

What happens when you board a schooner in Toronto harbour with 25 Guide dogs (some locals showed up that weren’t on the bus) and fifty blind people? ANSWER: The dogs are interested in the new scenario, but do their jobs.

Guide dog Riddle #4 

What happens when 25 Guide dogs and fifty blind people and ten or so crew and volunteers move below decks into a cramped dining room for a big buffet? ANSWER: The dogs are well behaved as food is flying and fifty blind people eat ravenously and compete to be heard over each others conversations and the loud music.


Guide dog Riddle #5

What happens when two Toronto taxis refuse to allow a Guide dog and handler into their cabs when they want to go to the airport  after the lovely mini-conference is over?  ANSWER: They take the third cab, and promise that there will be BIG TROUBLE for the two taxi drivers and their companies who obviously need a legal and financial reminder about the Guide dog access laws.


We had a lovely time in Toronto.  Opal and I are exhausted. She took it all in stride; the airports the flights, the long days, the strange hotel room, the strange city (maybe she thought we were just in another part of Halifax…the really big and noisy one), the pile of Guide dogs and all the new experiences.  We are ready for more adventures…but not today.

Opal Goes To The Movies

I  plan to go to a movie this afternoon.  My Guide dog Opal is coming with me.  Some Guide dog training schools suggest leaving the dog at home when one goes to the movies because the sound level is too high. I agree. Cinemas tend to crank out the sound beyond a comfortable level. I don’t enjoy it, so I can just imagine what a dog is experiencing.  Dogs have very  sensitive hearing.  There’s also the problem of popcorn all over the floor area that even a well trained Guide dog would find hard to resist.  I have solved both problems, thereby allowing me to have Opal with me.  The major issue of intolerable sound was dealt with by speaking to the cinema manager.  It is important to restrict movie-going to weekday matinees. That is when they are fewest people going to the cineplex. Often, there are only a half dozen people going to any one movie, especially the non-Hollywood blockbuster films which I prefer to avoid.  The manager is always willing to speak to the projectionist (more of a programmer these days) and have them set the sound down.  I also make sure that I enter AFTER all the promotional claptrap that appears before the feature which is always louder.  The popcorn problem is less of an obstacle.  By going to the first show of the day, chances are that the cinemas are quite clear of food on the floor.  I remain vigilant  none the less, with my harness arm ready to sense Opal attempting to snag a snack on the floor, so that I can tug her head up. My free hand is ready to shove into her mouth and yank out the scavenged food if she has moved too quickly. I’m sure some people are grossed out by the idea of probing a dog’s mouth, but if you are committed to your dog’s health and safety, you must learn to ‘get over it’. Your town’s cinemas may have matinees and hospitable management that would allow you to feel comfortable in bringing your Guide dog with you when you go to the movies. Some movie houses also offer free admission to a companion for disabled people.  This is sometimes an available courtesy provision at theatres and other entertainment venues. Some cinemas and theatres offer ‘descriptive’ options for the blind. This involves wearing a head set to hear a description of non-audible action and sets of the film or play you are attending.  Call first to inquire. 

Blind Etiquette 101 for…Retail Businesses

Do you own a small retail business? Are you a manager or employee in a shop, grocery store or other retail outlet? Here are some basic suggestions to help you or your staff in responding to the needs of your customers who may be blind, or partially sighted. First, think about the physical space in you store. Make it a firm policy to keep floor space clear of boxes and other obstacles. If you have any say in design features, such as lighting and signs, consider inquiring about what can optimize your site. Local organizations for the Blind, may be able to provide you with suggestions of specific types of lighting and how to use them, as well as other ways to create contrast (strips on steps etc.) Signs on bathroom doors should be a combination of large print, tactile symbols and Braille. Building standards and codes vary from place to place, however there are all sorts of Accessibility guidelines and checklists available from many sources, which can help you make your store or business accessible to EVERYONE. It can be daunting, with measurements of counter height and doors for wheelchair accessibility, automatic door openers, ramps, TTY access, etc. but try and think of the overall picture: If someone in a wheelchair, or someone who is Blind or Deaf, were to visit your store, what barriers would they face? ‘People skills’ is usually the aspect of accessibility, which creates the biggest barrier for people with disabilities. For people who are Blind or have limited vision? Here’s what you need to know: Identify yourself as a store employee, before asking a blind or partially sighted customer if they want help. OFFER assistance first (No grabbing of the arm etc.). It could be that the person does not want or need help, so don’t take a refusal personally. If they do want assistance, ask what they require. They will tell you what they need, or how they want to be guided (take your left arm etc.) If you are giving directions, be SPECIFIC. For example, “The washroom door is ten meters away at ten o’clock”, and not “Over there”. If I had a buck for every time I was told something was in that mysterious place called, “over there”, I’d have enough to buy a small condo. If the person has a Guide dog with them? know the do’s and don’ts that pertain to them (no petting, no talking to the dog, no eye contact…) and abide by them.  Also be aware of Access laws that protect Guide dogs and their handlers and allow them entry into your business (this extends to other properly qualified service dogs). The dog does not know where to find Ladies lingerie, so the handler might want to take your left arm and go ‘sighted guide’, or have the dog “follow”. It’s up to the handler in the specific situation. In a grocery store, Blind people have some unique, preferred methods for shopping. Realize that they can not read labels, or aisle markings. Whoever is available to be a ‘shopper’ (clerk who is helping), should have a good knowledge of the store and where everything is located. My biggest frustration in grocery stores stem from ‘shoppers’ who can’t find anything, and take me and Opal through a 2 hour odyssey. That’s not fair to the dog. It’s also frustrating to have a ‘shopper’ who has little knowledge of what constitutes a ‘good buy’ in produce. I may have access to the online ‘flyer’, but I have no idea what is actually available in the way of produce in the store when I get there, how much it costs, or if it is any good. Packaging makes it impossible for me to smell or feel the trussed-up package of green beans or asparagus, so I am counting on the ‘shopper’ to tell me what’s available, how it looks and how much it costs…in a timely fashion. No two ways about it, the art of description requires some thought and practice on the part of store clerks. If the blind customer has a large number of items on the shopping list, the challenge is even greater. Many people who are blind, (with or without a guide dog) will take hold of the shopping cart while the ‘shopper’ pulls the cart from the front. That way, a five foot-wide berth is not required to accommodate the cart, customer, ‘shopper’ and Guide dog. A good ‘shopper’ will advise of tight spots and turns. They will think ahead to where things are located in the store, so that there is no need to wander back and forth in the store. I try to plan for a maximum shopping time of forty minutes, for Opal’s sake. People don’t realize that a grocery store trek is one of the most challenging parts of her job. Smells, food spilled over on the floor, people trying to pet her, and the stop-and -go of the whole adventure is most difficult. She prefers working; being able to “find the bakery counter” at my direction, in a local store (actively working) over a situation where she is in harness, yet not guiding me in the store (when we go for a large number of items that require the help of a ‘shopper’ to locate them). Paying for items? Cashiers should (for everyone) say aloud, “out of twenty” when handed a bill. They should put the change in the customers hand, and then give the receipt. If a signature is required for a credit card payment by a blind person, the easiest way to accomplish this, is for you to place the card directly beneath the ‘line’ where they must sign (as a straight edge guide). If your customer with vision loss is taking a cab from your store, try and have someone watch for the taxi, so that they actually know it has arrived (cabbies should know to get out of their car, or at least announce themselves, instead of pulling up in an area where other cars are coming and going when the person waiting can’t distinguish one car from another…but they don’t necessarily). I tend to avoid shops that are so packed with stuff that I can’t navigate. Special displays everywhere create an obstacle course for someone using a white cane. With a Guide dog, a person may be able to work around stuff, but still require adequate manouvering room. If the aisles are too narrow because of bins and displays, Opal can not take me through it, if the space is not there. One thing I emphasize with my blind friends; when someone does an exceptional or even adequate job of assisting you, fuss it up a bit, maybe even tell the manager. When service or access is not adequate, point out the shortcomings. I would love to see all businesses, big and small think about Acessibility issues. I don’t like to refer to my right to shop where I choose, as ACCOMMODATION, but rather, as EVERYDAY INCLUSION. Ask your local service organization for the Blind to give your employees a little ‘blind people relations’ skills talk. Check for pamphlets that they might have for distribution. Create a space where everyone feel welcome and people will come back to spend more money in your place of business. Remember, that they will probably tell other people about their experiences too (good or bad), and THAT has even broader implications.

Guide Dog Access Laws: Where Guide dogs are allowed to go, and why

Please go to the following site to learn about the laws in various countries that protect Blind people and their Guide Dogs.

It’s also on my blogroll to the right.