May 22, 2024

The Seeing Eye Study Finds Guide Dog Users Continue to Face Challenges

Findings in a recent report from The Seeing Eye about access barriers faced by guide dog handlers reveals that 80 percent of guide dog handlers have experienced a denial of service from a rideshare service; 62 percent of respondents encounter challenges with air travel due to accessibility; and 54 percent of guide dog handlers surveyed were illegally required to show ID before entering a business. The full report is available here.

Access barriers are not just about a denial of service. Service dog handlers face challenges with unequal access to goods or services in the form of discrimination which can include segregated seating at a restaurant, isolation of the team for the convenience of other patrons, requests for pet deposits or requests for identification.

“As a guide dog handler, it is challenging to encounter access barriers while simply trying to go about everyday life. There’s not only an economic impact from missed opportunities but also an emotional toll of having to justify one’s right to be accompanied by a guide dog for independent travel,” said Seeing Eye Sr. Specialist of Advocacy and Government Relations Melissa Allman. “However, 95 percent of guide dog handlers responded that they would not let these challenges stand in their way. It’s heartening to hear how many of my fellow handlers are prepared to self-advocate and will continue to exercise their right to work with service animals.”

The report comes from an online survey completed by more than 500 guide dog handlers across the United States and Canada in October and November 2023. The survey was broken down topically with questions about access barriers encountered in public places, rideshares and air travel.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE FINDINGS: The statistics below were gathered from responses by guide dog handlers in the United States. The full report includes results from Canadian guide dog handlers and a breakdown by US region.

Access to Public Places:

  • 22 percent of respondents have been told their dogs must wear a vest to enter public places. There is no legal requirement in either country that service animals wear specific equipment to demonstrate that they are in fact service animals.
  • 54 percent of respondents have been told they must show ID to enter a business. ADA regulations make clear that it is illegal in the US to require that people with service animals show ID to enter a business.
  • 55 percent of respondents were told they could not enter with their dogs because other people accessing the business could have allergies, which is illegal in both the US and Canada.
  • 48 percent of respondents have been told at restaurants that they could only sit outside or far from other patrons with their dogs, even though laws in both countries make it illegal to segregate or isolate patrons due to the presence of a service animal.
  • 75 percent of respondents reported that within the past 5 years, they have been prevented from safely working with their guide dogs inside businesses and other public places due to an increase in poorly behaved dogs.

Rideshares: 76 percent of respondents said they use rideshares to get around with their guide dogs.

  • 81 percent of respondents who are rideshare users have experienced a denial of service due to the presence of their guide dogs.
  • 45 percent said they sometimes decide not to bring their guide dogs with them because of their experiences with being denied rides.
  • More than 62 percent of respondents had drivers who accepted the ride but complained about having to transport the dog throughout the trip. Some guide dog handlers were charged cleaning fees or received bad ratings.

Air Travel: About 63 percent of respondents said they travel by air at least once per year.

  • 62 percent of respondents have had problems completing the behavior and health attestation forms air travelers with service animals must now complete pursuant to current regulations, due to inaccessibility or a lack of technology.
  • 55 percent of respondents have been required by TSA to be separated from their guide dog during screening or to remove equipment from their dog that is necessary for the dog to work, such as the leash, harness or collar even though these demands go against TSA protocol for screening service animals.

These findings come in the wake of the organization’s 95th anniversary which was accompanied by a call for stronger advocacy for service dog handlers’ rights and on the heels of a 2019 Seeing Eye study published in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness about public interference with guide dogs which also emphasized the need for more education among the public.

Visit The Seeing Eye Advocacy Center here for more about guide dog handlers’ rights and to download The Seeing Eye Advocacy App for Apple and Android devices, which contains federal, state and provincial laws and regulations in the United States and Canada and other educational materials.

Established in 1929, The Seeing Eye provides specially bred and trained dogs to guide people who are blind or have low vision. Seeing Eye dog handlers experience greatly enhanced mobility and independence, allowing them to retain their active lifestyles. The Seeing Eye is a 501(c)3 non-profit supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, bequests and other planned gifts. The Seeing Eye does not receive government or insurance funding.

The Seeing Eye is a trademarked name and can only be used to describe the dogs bred and trained at the school’s facilities in Morristown, NJ. If you would like more information on The Seeing Eye, visit the website at Seeing Eye, call (973) 539-4425 or email


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