The Botanics ‘takes the lead’ with Assistance Dog Day

Two year old Francesca McDonald from Longniddry.  © Andrew O’Brien

Two year old Francesca McDonald from Longniddry. © Andrew O’Brien

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh will host an Assistance Dog Day on Sunday 15 June to highlight the accessibility of the Garden.  The day has been officially launched by Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism. Partners of the event include the major assistance dog associations across Scotland and the UK: Guide Dogs Scotland, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Canine Partners and Medical Detection Dogs.

The day promises to be fascinating and fun for all the family. In the beautiful surroundings of the Botanics, the public will be able to meet some of the cleverest dogs around. People will get the chance to take a blindfolded walk with a guide dog, meet the cutest puppies in training, learn about the skills of hearing dogs and others that help people with disabilities.

There will be assisted Garden guided tours for those with visual impairments, hearing difficulties and mobility problems. Also, conservationist Dr Heather McHaffie will talk to visitors about how plant-hunting impacts on the senses. Assistance dog owners and their canine companions will be especially welcome.

On launching the initiative, the Minister commented: “Scotland’s world class visitor attractions sit at the heart of the memorable experience we offer tourists. Today’s launch of the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden’s Assistance Dogs Day is an example of how Scotland’s visitor attractions are working to ensure that all their visitors receive a warm welcome.

“Visitor attractions have a key part to play in achieving our aims for Homecoming Scotland 2014 especially during this significant year for Scottish tourism which also features the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and MTV Europe Music Awards.”

Simon Milne MBE, Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, said:  “Around nine per cent of our visitors last year identified themselves, or a member of their group, as being disabled. Our day in June will be an opportunity for us to invite even more people with specific needs to visit us. We hope to gain lots of feedback from visitors which will help us to continue to develop what we offer here at the Botanics.”

The idea of Assistance Dog Day at the Botanics has been created in association with VisitScotland to celebrate accessible tourism.

Commenting, Chris McCoy, Head of VisitScotland’s Accessible Tourism Project, said: Assistance dogs make a vital contribution to the lives of hundreds of people throughout the country and it is important that, wherever possible, they are made to feel welcome by Scotland’s tourism businesses. The Assistance Dog Day is a terrific way for the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to highlight the difference these wonderful animals make to so many lives and get people thinking about how they can make their own businesses more accessible.”

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh was recently listed as the 17th best attraction for disabled people and their carers to visit in the UK by The Vitalise UK Tourism Report 2014.  The Garden’s mission is ‘exploring and explaining the world of plants for a better future’ and it is a leading research organisation delivering knowledge and education about plants.  Find out more at www.rbge.org.uk

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