More than 50 delegates from 17 countries, accompanied by 16 guide dogs, gathered in Malta at the end of November for the 10th anniversary conference.

Many of the delegates posed for a photo at the end of the conference in Malta

As President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca entered the conference room she was met by a "guard of honour" of all people attending with their guide dogs. In the left photo she is shaking hands with Dr Andrew Lamb, newly elected vice-president of EGDF.  At the far left is outgoing vice-president Karine Garnier. Centre photo: In her opening address, the president commended the delegates for the work they do and the subjects they would be discussing at the conference.  She remarked how the situation had changed since the days of her blind grandmother, who was never expected to do anything independently after losing her sight.  In the right photo, EGDF President David Adams and Executive Director Judith Jones thank the President of Malta.


More than 40 delegates from 16 European countries convened in Slovenia for EGDF's 8th Conference on April 14th to 16th.  The conference programme, prepared by Executive Director Judith Jones, focused on the many challenges facing the 25,000 guide dog and other assistance dog owners each day. The conference addessed the difficultites of guide dogs having rights of access and the limitations of institutions and regulations that should protect them.

Delegate at Ljubljana City Hall after being received by the MayorLeft:  Delegates in front of City Hall after being received by the Mayor.

Dr Simon Adderley of the University of Birmingham Business School facilitated the conference and set the scene with an overview of recent research, including a study by the University of Chester, another by Guide Dogs UK, and a third by the European Parliament Research Service.  Common findings of these studies show persistent deficiencies in guide dog access rights which are either not accepted by the public at large or are not enforced by the appropriate authorities. These findings set the theme for the conference which, in various papers and workshops, explored remedies and actions that EGDF might pursue:

1.  Champion a Pan-European public education campaign aimed at improving recognition rights and values of guide dogs and other assistance dogs which would

  • reduce discrimination
  • improve access to goods, services and the built environment
  • enhance product design and
  • promote acceptance across ethnic and cultural divides. 

2.  Be a catalyst to improve the quality of equality and discrimination legislation so that it clearly specifies

  • the rights of people with guide dogs and assistance dogs
  • the obligations of the wider public and service providers towards them
  • specific references to qualified guide and assistance dogs.  

This may include the creation of a Europe-wide identification document for qualified parterships.

3. Demonstrate the realities of life for guide dog users by maintaining a census of guide and assistance dogs by country, tracking legislation concerning guide dogs across states and regions, and developing an interactive realtime system of access denials so that they can be quickly resolved and also recorded as evidence.

EGDF President David Adams thanked delegates for attending and participating so actively.  He acknowledged the support of the President of Slovenia as honorary patron, the mayor Ljubljana who welcomed delegates at a reception at City Hall, the staff of the school for blind children in Ljubljana, and Slo-Canis for hosting the conference.

Mr Adams' own journey from London to Ljubljana illustrated the problems guide dog users often suffer when travelling.  Due to an access issue at Stansted airport he was unable to board the flight with his guide dog.  His journey was prolonged by 24 anxious hours and he finally had to leave his guide dog behind and operate for six days without her or any other mobilitiy aid for the first time in their six year partnership.


Information for Delegates

Slovenia to host gathering on 14-16 April 2016 

Guide dog owners and professionals from across Europe will gather in Slovenia to exchange ideas, and hear an informative programme presented by Europe's leaders in the guide and assistance dog world.  Packed with information about the latest and future trends.   

Who should attend:

  • Delegates of guide dog user organisations
  • Delegates of guide dog training organisations
  • Others interested in free movement and access for all types of assistance dogs and their owners

The conference venue is the Brdo Estate, the 200-hectare former summer home of Marshall Tito.  It consists of the historic castle he occupied, a more recently built hotel with meeting rooms and a modern conference centre – all set in beautiful parkland with lakes.  Here is the link to the website:

The Slovenian government uses the venue for meetings with heads of state and when not used by the government, it is rented out commercially.  The conference centre was built in 2007 for the Slovenian Presidency of the EU.

The Brdo Estate is conveniently located in beautiful countryside 10 km from Ljubljana Airport and 36 km from Ljubljana city centre.  There are low-cost flights to Ljubljana from many European cities, especially good value if you book early.

The venue has many advantages for conference delegates

  • Transport will be arranged for all delegates from airport to hotel and return.
  • The estate has no through traffic, just lovely parkland and 10km of paths for walking with the dogs.
  • All events will be in the hotel itself or at the conference centre, 200 m away.
  • Most people in Slovenia speak English and everyone is very dog friendly.
  • There is a spa in the hotel.
Slovenia is a great destination for a short break if you want to bring someone with you and extend your stay before or after the conference.

The Programme
We are organising an impressive line-up of speakers which we hope you will find as interesting, informative and useful as last year. Here are some of the programme topics we are working on:
  • 15 Ways to Fundraise up to Half a Million €
  • Working Together with IGDF – the MoU
  • What the European Disability Act 2015 Means to Guide Dog Users
  • Government Standards, Accreditation and ID – is this the way forward for guide dog users?
  • Online recording of access issues to make our case
  • Our Petition to the European Commission
The conference begins early Thursday afternoon, allowing most delegates to fly Thursday morning.  There will be a gala dinner and entertainment Thursday evening organised by our hosts Slo-Canis.  The conference will continue all day Friday and delegates who need to leave can do so Friday night or Saturday morning.  However, there is an all-day sightseeing tour arranged for Saturday that includes the famous mountain resort of Bled and the capital city Ljubljana, including a visit to the blind children's school.

Bled is described as Slovenia's most popular resort, with its emerald-green lake and picture-postcard church on an islet, a medieval castle clinging to a rocky cliff and some of the highest peaks of the Julian Alps as backdrops.  It is popular with everyone from romantic honeymooners  to backpackers who come for hiking, biking and watersports.




  For Your Eyes Only! - Meet, Engage & Learn

 - A dinner-quiz to better understand the facts and fiction behind healthy eyes and better sight - 

'Facts, Fiction and Myopic Myths
Hosted by Marian Harkin MEP 
Wednesday 20th April - 18:45 - 20:45 
(Security clearance 17:30 - 18:30) 
European Parliament Members Restaurant, Altiero Spinelli building (ASP) Ground floor. Brussels.

Did you know that over half of all sight loss could be prevented or treated, meaning that millions of people every year could avoid losing their most precious sense. The fact is, many eye problems only give symptoms or signs that you have a problem, when they have been present for a while and when irreversible damage may already have been done. In addition, increased research is needed to improve existing diagnostic tools and treatments and develop innovative cures for eye diseases. 

To mark the publication of the updated Your Eyes manual, we are delighted to invite you to a networking dinner/quiz in support of early diagnosis, better preventative management and better vision. At appropriate intervals during our dinner, we shall host a ?fun-based ?knowledge ?quiz focusing on the facts, fiction and myths around eye prevention and treatment and a few questions on the economic facts around blindness too. It will be a great opportunity for you to participate, learn and to hear from professionals, engaged in prevention, treatment and research. You will be provided with your own personal voting pad and all responses will be anonymous. 

By downloading the 'Your Eyes' manual and studying this before the quiz, you'll have a head-start in knowing answers to some of the questions we shall ask on the night. Why not do this now and register your attendance at the same time. We very much look forward to meeting with you at our event.

Click Here to Register for this Event
Download 'Your Eyes - Better Sight' manual HERE 

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An event in co-hosted by:
European Forum Against Blindness (EFAB)  is an independent, multi-stakeholder advocacy platform. It currently represents four partner organizations, including the AMD Alliance International (AMDAI), the European Council of Optometry and Optics (ECOO), the European Men’s Health Forum (EMHF) and the International Diabetes Federation European Region (IDF-Europe).  The group aims to act as a platform to bring together key third parties (patient groups, healthcare professionals, policymakers and advocacy groups) across Europe, to jointly and collectively increase awareness of and attention to the importance of vision health and retina diseases in particular, and ultimately prevent vision loss through more timely diagnosis and intervention. 

European Coalition for Vision (ECV)  is an alliance of professional bodies, patient groups, European NGOs, disabled people's organisations, trade associations representing suppliers and research groups.

EU-EYE is an independent organisation comprising 9 European organisations representing over 15,000 medical doctors specialised in the treatment of eye disease and research. As the leading alliance of medical specialists’ organisations in this area, EU-EYE aims to raise political and societal awareness of the importance of basic and clinical research in the field of vision care and science.



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