A visually impaired resident of Petrozavodsk, Viktor Pankov, said that he was not allowed into the auditorium of the Puppet Theater of Karelia with a guide dog. He wrote a statement to the prosecutor’s office. Practice shows that guide dogs are allowed into the theater, but most often not into the auditorium. The journalists spoke with the participants in the conflict: both with Viktor and with the director of the theater, Lyubov Vasilyeva.
On February 26, Victor with his wife, a three-year-old child and a guide dog came to the Puppet Theater for a performance and went into the auditorium. Their seats were at the beginning of the row, the dog and owners enjoyed the performance to the fullest.
The dog could be in the theater, this is explicitly stated in federal law No. 181. It guarantees the visually impaired the right to visit any public places with “special means for orienteering, including guide dogs with a set of equipment.” That is, guide dogs are taught specific skills from a very early age: they help a person move around outside the home, are not distracted by extraneous sounds, animals, and so on. Victor’s dog is trained and has all relevant documents.
A week later, on March 5, Victor with his family and dog again came to the Puppet Theater for the play “Cat’s House”, he, according to him, was late and was unpleasantly surprised when the administrator asked him to leave the retriever Cora in the lobby, promising, however, to look after for her. Since the performance was already beginning, they agreed to leave Cora, but Victor was nervous and worried about her the whole performance, and when Victor’s wife went to the toilet with her daughter, she saw how Cora was worried about them. Victor decided to write a statement to the prosecutor’s office.
“They didn’t let my guide into the auditorium, leaving her to wait with an employee in the lobby. I consider this illegal because the guide dog helps me navigate in space. I ask you to help me sort out this situation with the management of the puppet theater. Because I believe that a guide dog should not be separated from a blind person. Because situations are completely different,” Victor wrote.
According to the director of the theater Lyubov Vasilyeva, the situation developed as follows: on February 26, after the performance, the parents of small spectators expressed dissatisfaction with the administrators: they said that the children were distracted by the dog, some had allergies. In the theater, at a planning meeting, they discussed this issue and decided to carefully study the provision that governs such rare cases. It was decided to send the document to the lawyers for proofreading.
The fact that Viktor’s dog was not allowed into the auditorium on March 5 was explained by Lyubov Vasilyeva as concern for the other 140 spectators. During the second visit, Victor’s seats were in the center of the row, when he arrived, the performance was already beginning, the rest of the visitors had already taken their places, that is, the big dog would inevitably disturb them. In addition, she would probably have little space under the owner’s seat, and would have to lie in the aisle away from the owner. The performance also uses a lot of special effects that could excite the dog.
– We have 140 spectators in the hall. We must also provide them with a quality service. We don’t know how the dog will react to special effects, very loud music and simulated fire. What if she cancels the show? Who and how will people return the money? the director says.
To Victor’s question about who will help him in an unforeseen situation, Lyubov Vasilyeva replies that the administrator is in the hall and understands who may need help in the first place, and will provide it if necessary, in addition, Victor’s wife helps him.
Portal +1 and TASS previously clarified the rules for visiting cultural events with guide dogs, saying: “Before visiting a cultural event, it is better for the owner to call the institution and warn that a guide dog will come with him.” Also, in order to avoid collision with other visitors, for example, in the theater, the guide dog in some cases waits for the owner in the lobby, accompanied by a volunteer, and the person himself is escorted to the place and then met.
– This is due to the fact that other people may have allergies, loud sounds may be heard on the stage … So that the dog does not bark, in some cases it waits for the owner outside the hall. – said the head of the program “Un Certain Regard” Ksenia Dmitrieva.
The director of the theater assures that she is ready to let the visually impaired with guide dogs to performances if they purchase tickets for seats from the edge of the row, where it will be convenient for both the dogs and the audience, and the visually impaired themselves if they need any help.