The number of people using public transport has increased dramatically over recent years. Unfortunately this has been at the detriment of guide dogs and their handlers. There are signs on many of the buses asking people to give up the designated disability seating if required but this is frequently ignored.
Shona is a new guide dog handler and still lacks some confidence when out and about with her dog. She recently took a bus to town and found that the disability seating which provides extra room for guide and assistance dogs to lie comfortably on the floor was full of pushchairs. She politely asked one woman if she could please fold up her pushchair so she could sit and keep her dog out of the aisle. The woman refused. When Shona asked the driver he was very curt and said ‘there are plenty of other seats.’ Feeling admonished and shocked at their attitude Shona sat further down the bus and as taught put her dog under the seat. Unfortunately when it was time for her to get off her dog’s harness was stuck under the seat which distressed both her and the dog.
Shona is reluctant to travel on the bus as frequently now, even though she has been given other techniques to use when on public transport with her guide dog. She believes accessibility legislation would require bus drivers and passengers to ensure that disabled people have priority to the designated disability seating areas.
This is my access story, it is one of many. I'm sharing it because I want a law that puts accessibility at the heart of an inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.