Some will argue there will be abuse when it comes to support or therapy dogs – however on International Day of Persons with Disabilities we need to look for solutions
According to a media release earlier today, from the BC government, it was first proclaimed in 1992 to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities and to raise awareness. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities was introduced by the UN in 2006, and since has been ratified by 177 countries, including Canada.
He then went on to say, “We are committed to making life more affordable and more accessible for all British Columbians.”
Referring to recent townhalls through-out the province, regarding accessibility issues, he also indicated that:
“We heard overwhelmingly about the need for accessibility legislation to enhance education and awareness and the importance of creating a culture of inclusion, as well as eliminating barriers for all British Columbians.”
BC Liberals also affirmed their commitment to ... inclusion and promoting the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
According to Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, “People living with disabilities can face many barriers ... we must all recognize that more work still needs to be done to ensure greater accessibility and inclusion here in British Columbia”.
Continuing Wilkinson remarked:
Both the NDP government, and the BC Liberals, as you can see above, speak to the needs for accessibility – inclusion – eliminating barriers – and accessibility of services and public spaces.
That’s great – however it is not being met for at least one segment of society.
Those with invisible disabilities (depression, anxiety, and stress for example) many times have NO protections against discrimination when it comes to accessibility and barriers. I know this for fact because despite having letters from two different medical practices (Nurse Practitioner and a Physiatrist) of my need for a support dog, I am refused access to IHA facilities when he is with me.
DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE TO YOU?
As I have mentioned previously, anxiety, stress and depression can often times be kept at bay and counteracted by having a support animal to provide comfort when necessary. But a support animal is NOT a Service Animal, and therein lies the problem.
Service dogs costing multiple thousands of dollars are there to help with many serious and severe medical needs. They are literally trained to provide life-saving responses to their owners, and that training is process which is long and specific.
Support dogs on the other hand? They are there for comfort and to provide assistance when an individual becomes distressed or overwhelmed, due to any combination of depression, anxiety or stress.
It would be fair to say in looking at the requirements needed for a support / therapy dog, it would be essential the dog be affectionate, alert, quiet and calm, have a high degree of intelligence, and have the ability to learn and easily be taught by their owner, or someone that provides the basics of dog training.
I know there will be those who argue that some will abuse the issue of needing a support or therapy dog – I’ve seen it myself - however there is an easy fix for that.
Those with support or therapy dogs could be asked to demonstrate they are able to be in public without showing aggression and barking ... that they are current and up to date with all vaccinations and in good health ... and there could be the requirement to have a letter(s) from those providing medical care, of the need for this type of animal.
To date, no one seems willing to take this on as an important task to be undertaken ... not the government, or the opposition.
Accessibility therefore, and the elimination of barriers, still seem a long way off – even today on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities ... and that’s a pity.