Tails of Lindy’s Comet

Giant paw step towards Accessibility and Inclusion

Tails of Lindy’s Comet – June 2021

This is the second edition for 2021. I haven’t published my newsletter since March as I have been busy helping Lindy getting materials ready to promote Accessibility and Inclusion. Now that these projects are on their way, I will give my fan club the first glimpse of them.

I always believe that the best way to overcome negative attitude is to take positive steps. So, Lindy and I have been involved in:

  • Filming for “More Than Inclusive, More Than Accessible” campaign;
  • Accessibility consultation at National Gallery of Australia;
  • Radio Interview for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (20th May);
  • Radio interview for International Guide Dogs Day (28th April);
  • Find the best voices among young College students for Light Rail announcements;
  • Accessibility consultation for War Memorial Walk & Talk

All of these are little paw steps towards a more accessible and inclusive society. I know that many little paw steps can add up to one Giant step and I look forward to show off that big Paw Leap.

Last but not least, I will tell you about the non-progress by the ACT Minister after five months of correspondence about the taxi driver who refused to take me and Lindy. This will make a good read just by itself.

Back to information access

Do you know that less than 10% of information is fully accessible to vision impaired people? You may be amazed to hear that “MyGov”, the Australian Government website that links to many services that people with disability have to access is not fully accessible!

As technology develops, one would think that it is easier to access information through computers. Unfortunately, many website developers often see accessibility as an add-on rather than as part of the development. They often want to get the site out quickly. When people point out that it is not accessible, then they may attempt to fix it. But generally this is too costly both in time and resources and often results in vision impaired people like Lindy not being able to use the site properly!

W3C Accessibility Standards are supposed to be used as the standard for developing websites. But it is not enforceable. While it is possible to take the organisation through the Human Rights Commission to ensure compliance, I certainly don’t have the time nor funds to do this, even if I give up all my treat money and nap times!

The next best thing is for us to promote accessibility and inclusion. We know that venues and information can be accessible for everyone when we include access and inclusion during its design and implementation. If this is incorporated at the beginning, it doesn’t cost any more time or money. We just have to change the attitudes of those responsible.

Filming for “More Than Inclusive, More Than Accessible”

Lindy and I were ‘talent’ for the filming at various venues to promote access and inclusion in Canberra. We filmed at the QT Canberra hotel, Canberra Airport, Australian National Botanic Gardens and the National Arboretum. There were other venues such as Vertical Indoor Snow Sports but Lindy & I sat those out. These venues provide good access for people with disability. I really enjoyed the Botanic Gardens and Arboretum as I was able to have a bit of time out of my harness to chill in between filming. The staff at these venues are keen to provide a descriptive tour for vision impaired people as well. I can take Lindy around but I can’t really describe to her the plants and scenery. There are times when we, Guide Dogs, need humans to help!

Keep an eye out for the launch of this campaign. I will certainly put the link in my newsletter when it is ready.

Lindy listening with Comet resting in front of Van Gogh's Sunflowers painting while it is being described

Lindy listening with Comet resting in front of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting while it is being described

Accessibility consultation at National Gallery of Australia (NGA)I have extracted the following from the NGA:

“The National Gallery is undergoing consultation with our audiences around accessibility. This workshop is part of this consultation and invites visitors with disability to share their experiences with us and our consultants at Accessible Arts. The consultation will inform the development of our new Disability Inclusion Action Plan which will provide our strategy and actions to improve our accessibility over the next few years.”

It was a very productive workshop. I quietly (pretended to be asleep) listened to all those wonderful suggestions that Lindy along with other participants gave.

ABC Radio Canberra interview for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (20th May)

The purpose of this day is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access/inclusion for people with different disabilities. The aim is to ensure that people with disability can experience digital products the same as those without disabilities. A study carried out in 2020 over one million home pages found that 98.1% home pages have at least one access issue!

It’s no wonder that Lindy gets a bit frustrated when she tries to find information on the websites. Awareness and action will make life easier!

(audio link will shortly be available)

ABC Radio interview for International Guide Dogs Day (28th April)

On this day we celebrate our role in ensuring our handlers can get around independently. This year’s theme is to let people know not to distract us while we are working. Do you all pat a policeman on the head while he/she is working? How come people insist on patting us on our head while we are working?

(audio link will shortly be available)

Find the best voices among young College students for Light Rail announcements

I took Lindy to Gungahlin College to find the new voices for future Light Rail announcements. Lindy along with four other judges chose four year 11/12 students to announce information for the passengers. It was a tough job as all the finalists were very good. Since Lindy can’t see where she is, she finds that clear and friendly announcements certainly help her relax while travelling. I can also snooze through the trip and let the voices of the Light Rail take care of things!

Accessibility consultation for War Memorial Walk & Talk

The War Memorial is making sure it is fully accessible. Lindy & I, along with other people with different disabilities, did a tour on the 9th June. We provided lots of information for the planning team and were assured that these suggestions will go into the planning stage to ensure that the War Memorial is fully accessible for all.

Taxi Driver Refused to take us!

Some of you may have heard that we were refused by a taxi driver last December.

The driver not only refused to take us, but he was very arrogant to us and then drove off. The entire incident was witnessed by my doggie friend and her owner. Fortunately, we were able to get another taxi to the Canberra Blind Society (CBS). We made the Board meeting very late and distressed!

Lindy wrote to Taxi Services ACT, which is supposed to be the regulatory body for taxi drivers. The regulation clearly states that Guide Dogs are allowed at all public places including public transport. CBS also wrote letters to the Taxi company and to the Minister for Transport. After many correspondence over the last few months, very little has been achieved apart from the buck being passed around!

The regulatory body put the incident in the file and passed the buck on to the taxi company. All the company could do was to suspend the driver from all account work for a period of time.

I heard that when Harper (Lindy’s first Guide Dog) was refused by a taxi driver in Sydney, the driver was booked and fined. When the driver decided to challenge the fine and when to court, he lost the case and incurred over $3,000 in fine and court costs. I can’t understand why in Canberra a taxi driver is allowed to refuse a Guide Dog, be rude to our handler and get away with little or no consequence!

Now that winter is here I love having my Teddy bear PJs on while curled up asleep on the lounge.

Guide dog Comet curled up on a lounge with his fleecy rug with teddybears on it draped over him

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“Many little paw steps can make a giant leap forward in access and inclusion”

This is the tail of Lindy’s Comet

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Woof Woof

Comet Hou