[singlepic id=404 w=320 h=240 float=left] People who rely on certified guide, hearing or assistance dogs will be guaranteed equal access to residential and holiday accommodation under laws before State Parliament.

Disability Services Minister Curtis Pitt said the access rights are enshrined in amendments to the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009.

“Accommodation providers need to realise that discriminating against people with certified guide, hearing or assistance dogs is not on,” Mr Pitt said.

“Being able to access accommodation is a basic human right, and we’re determined to protect that right for all Queenslanders.

“That’s why we’ve introduced amendments reaffirming access rights to residential and holiday accommodation for people who rely on guide, hearing or assistance dogs.

“The amendments make it an offence for a person in control of a place of accommodation to deny accommodation – including holiday accommodation – to a person with a disability because they are accompanied by their certified guide, hearing or assistance dog.

“We need to ensure people aren’t denied accommodation in the first place – they shouldn’t be turned away and forced to seek redress later on.

“By then it’s too late, and these amendments will give them the immediate redress they need.”

Mr Pitt paid tribute to Geoff Skinner from Atherton in Far North Queensland for his tireless campaign to have amendments introduced to this Act.

“Mr Skinner has experienced discrimination first-hand as a guide dog user,” Mr Pitt said.

“In January 2010 Mr Skinner was refused accommodation in a Gold Coast unit which was advertised on a website because he was accompanied by a guide dog.

“He took his case to the Anti-Discrimination Commission and has campaigned for changes to the Act which would make it an offence to deny accommodation.

“The amendments now before parliament are a tribute to his courage, commitment and perseverance.”

Mr Pitt said the amendments build on the safeguards in the Act which currently allow people with a disability to be accompanied by their guide, hearing or assistance dog in public places.

“They’re consistent with the United Nations Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities and promote equality of opportunity and access for people with a disability, helping to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability,” he said.

Mr Pitt said any breach of the proposed amendments could attract harsh penalties.

“Property owners and managers who don’t do the right thing and refuse people accommodation are liable for a penalty of up to $10,000 (for individuals) and $50,000 (for businesses),” he said.

Karen Knight, Vision Australia State Manager Qld has welcomed the proposed amendments.

“Vision Australia believes that people who are blind or have low vision should be able to access and participate in every part of life,” Ms Knight said.

“This includes being able to stay in privately owned rental properties and holiday accommodation.

“Incorporating accommodation into the Act is vital to ensure vision-impaired people are not unfairly treated while holidaying or trying to secure rental properties.

“We applaud Minister Pitt and the State Government for bringing these important amendments before the Queensland Parliament.”

For more information about the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009, contact the Disability Information Service – Phone 1800 177 120 (toll-free), TTY 1800 010 222 (toll-free) or go to www.communities.qld.gov.au/disability