In summary, the Blind Persons’ Rights Act – Chapter B-3, enacted on November 1 2005, recognizes the rights of Albertans who are blind and use guide dogs. This recognition ensures blind Albertans are given equal opportunities and access to public services and facilities. This legislation also applies to non-residents of Alberta who may be visiting the province on a temporary basis.
With respect to the use of a mobility or ID cane, the Act states “No person other than a blind person shall carry or use a white cane in a public place or public conveyance or other place to which the public is permitted.” Contravention of this section of the ACT could result in a penalty or fine not exceeding $250.00.
Section 5(1) of the Act speaks directly to the issue of guide dog access. It states “No person, directly or indirectly, alone or with another, by himself or herself or by the interposition of another, shall:
- a) deny to any person the accommodation, services or facilities available in any place to which the public is customarily admitted, or
- b) discriminate against any person with respect to the accommodation, services or facilities available in any place to which the public is customarily admitted, or the charges for the use of them, for the reason that the person is a blind person accompanied by a guide dog or a certified dog-trainer accompanied by a dog in training.
With respect to accommodation, the Act further states “No person, directly or indirectly, alone or with another, by himself or herself or by the interposition of another, shall:
- a) deny to any person occupancy of any self-contained dwelling unit, or
- b) discriminate against any person with respect to any term or condition of occupancy of any self-contained dwelling unit, for the reason that the person is a blind person keeping or customarily accompanied by a guide dog.
Guide dog handlers must control the behavior of their guide dog when in public venues.
The act includes higher fines for violations, which range from $250 for falsely using a white cane to $3,000 for discrimination against a guide dog team. It also includes:
- a definition of blindness (as determined by the medical profession), and
- an identification card for guide dog teams, and,
- clear qualifications for guide dog training facilities.
Identification cards for guide dog teams are voluntary but are available to guide dog users as proof that the team meets standards outlined in the act. Albertans who are blind may voluntarily apply to the Minister of Seniors and Community Supports for identification cards, which are available free of charge to users as proof that their guide dog team meets established standards.
Government of Alberta identification cards are available to users of qualified guide dogs. The identification cards have an Alberta government logo and a picture of the individual and guide dog. The card verifies that the individual and the guide dog are qualified for the purposes of the Blind Persons’ Rights Act.
The identification card issued to graduates of accredited guide dog schools is evidence of the special training the dogs have received and is generally accepted as such.
- To be a qualified guide dog in Alberta, the dog must be trained in a school that meets the qualifications of the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF).