When walking the streets of Wagga Geoff Conway relies on his guide dog, Jan, to show him the way.
With a guide dog he has independence and freedom.
“It would be a boring life without a guide dog,” Mr Conway said.
Generally the days go smoothly but on a few occasions people and businesses are not inviting for Mr Conway or Jan.
Mr Conway tires to avoid town during busy times and has even been walked straight into numerous times.
There is now a bell attached to Jen’s harness to try and get peoples attention.
“There's nothing worse than running into someone face on. You don't know if you’re getting mugged or what's going on," Mr Conway said.
When he can hear he is approaching a group of people Mr Conway asks his dog to slow down.
On a windy day when sound can travel it can be very stressful because it’s hard for him to judge where people are and how close he is to people.
While people are generally good Mr Conway would like to see more people taking notice of where they are walking.
It could be as simple as waiting for him and his dog to walk through a doorway rather than pushing past or moving out of the way as he crosses the road.
It isn’t just the general public who can be careless when it comes to the sight impaired businesses can also do the wrong thing on occasion.
There are four instances of discrimination are still fresh in Mr Conway’s mind despite one happening almost 20 years ago.
He has been told he can’t stay in restaurants, abused at a caravan park after bumping into someone's awning, had a caravan park try and charge him for having a guide dog and been hassled by a taxi driver for having a dog.
Luckily Mr Conway hasn’t let the situations get to him and has simply left the venues which weren’t accommodating.
However, this shouldn’t be the way. There have been laws in place for more than 30 years to prevent discrimination against those with guide dogs.
It is a crime for any venue to refuse entry to a person with a guide dog and fines from $165 to $880 can be issued to offenders.
In the past year 53 per cent of Guide Dogs NSW and ACT clients experienced discrimination with 40 per cent occurring at cafes and restaurants.
Wagga’s Royal Gardens Chinese restaurant openly welcomes guide dogs into the venue and welcomes dogs to sit outside.
“They are here to help people and are really friendly,” manager Nathaniel Lai said.
Mr Conway was blinded instantly in 1993 spending the next 12 months in hospital and got his first guide dog in 1994.
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