Tue, Jan 09, 2007 - Page 2 News List

THSRC panned over guide dogs

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Flanked by members of the Huikuang Guide Dog Center at a press conference at the legislature yesterday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Joanna Lei, third left, demands that the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp alter regulations so that blind passengers don't need to apply to bring guide dogs onto high speed trains.

PHOTO: SUNG CHIH-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Advocates yesterday called for changes in regulations allowing guide dogs onto public transport systems.

"The law permits free and unconditional entrance of guide dogs into public transport systems," Monica Tsai (蔡宇涵), public relations supervisor for the Huikuang Guide Dog Center said, "but Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp [THSRC, 台灣高鐵] requires guide dog users to apply in advance, and only allows guide dogs on trains upon approval."

Article 51-1 of the Physically and Mentally Disabled Citizens Protection Act states that guide dogs, whether qualified or still in training, are allowed to "enter and leave without any restriction public places, public buildings, business ground, public transportation means and other public establishments." Persons in charge of such places cannot "reject their free coming and going or attach other conditions," according to the law.

Guide dogs are only allowed into high speed rail stations when accompanied by a guide dog instructor, certified by a training institution, with permission of the THSRC, according to the company's Web site.

"How do we find information and fill out application forms when most of us cannot even see?" Chi Wen-cheng, a guide dog user, said.

"Limiting guide dogs in any way, is violating guide dog users' right of free movement," Joanna Lei (雷倩), a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator said.

"It has always been a priority for us to provide assistance to mentally and physically disabled individuals," said Chang Chen-yi (常誠毅), division director of the Bureau of High Speed Rail.

"The THSRC will certainly act according to the law," Richard Lo, senior specialist for public affairs at the company, told the press conference. "We will also change the mistaken statement on our Web site."

Similar accusations were made at the press conference about services operated by the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA).

"TRA has allowed guide dogs into stations and on trains for years," Lu Chieh-sheng (鹿潔身), deputy division director of the administration said. "There may have been occasional misunderstandings but we will improve the situation through further employee training."

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