In this instalment of 'Let's Talk About Disability', we are talking about Assistance Dogs.
Annually in August, International Assistance Dog Week (IADW) is celebrated. IADW was created to recognize all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability related limitations.
Assistance dogs are highly-trained animals whose job it is to help a disabled handler traverse the world around them. They come in all shapes and sizes, though Labradors and Golden Retrievers are by far the most common, pretty much any breed of dog can be trained to mitigate a disability.
7,000 people in the UK rely on an assistance dog, the majority of whom are guide dog handlers, but also include dogs trained to help wheelchairs users, people with other physical disabilities, deaf or autistic people, as well as medical detection.
Not familiar with this instalment's theme? Find out more by clicking below:
What is an assistance dog?
The Equality and Human Rights Commission states that Assistance Dogs:
- are not pets and are treated as “auxiliary aids”,
- are highly trained,
- will not wander freely around the premises,
- will sit or lie quietly on the floor next to their owner and are trained to go to the toilet on command and so are unlikely to foul in a public place.
- Most are instantly recognisable by the harness or identifying dog jacket they wear.
What assistance dogs can do
Assistance animals, who are sometimes called ‘service animals’ overseas, include:
- Dogs trained to perform daily personal care tasks (for example, retrieving or carrying items, opening and closing doors, switching lights on and off, pulling laundry from washing machines) or mobility assistance (for example, pulling wheelchairs or helping with balance) for people with physical disabilities including cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, or suffering long-term impacts after a serious accident.
- Guide (or ‘seeing eye’) dogs to assist people with vision impairments to move around safely.
- Hearing (or ‘hearing ear’) dogs to alert people with hearing impairments.
- Medical alert dogs (such as for the detection of impending seizures in people with epilepsy or of blood sugar changes in people with diabetes).
- Psychiatric assistance dogs to interrupt anxiety, alert to triggering situations and wake from a nightmare for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other mental health related disabilities, traumatic brain injury, etc.
How to behave around assistance dogs
Many people don’t know how to act around assistance dogs, but the etiquette is pretty simple - pretend the dog is not there, just the person. You’ll be able to tell a working dog by the harness or jacket they’re wearing, or by the special slip on their lead.
Assistance dogs are highly trained working dogs, performing tasks to assist disabled people to enable their owners to be independent.
Distracting a dog in any way can be dangerous for the handler, so never you shouldn't:
- Touch or feed an assistance dog, unless invited to do so by their owner.
- Deliberately distract or startle an assistance dog.
- Separate or attempt to separate an assistance dog from the person using their service.
Assistance dogs are mobility aids - very cute, fluffy ones, but mobility aids nonetheless!
Assistance Dog Policy
The University of Warwick generally prohibits individuals from bringing animals inside any University owned, leased or controlled buildings, vehicles or structures.
However, the University recognises that an animal (an “Assistance Animal”), usually a dog (an “Assistance Dog”), kept and used by a disabled person (as defined by the Equality Act 2010) wholly or mainly for the purpose of assisting that person to carry out day to day activities, will require access to the University’s estate, relevant buildings and University owned, leased or controlled student accommodation.
Our Assistance Dog Policy outlines our approach to accomodating assistance dogs on campus.
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