At an event in Parliament organised by the charity Guide Dogs, local MP, David Rutley, gave his backing to a campaign to tackle discrimination against guide dog owners.
Over a hundred guide dog owners from across the country gathered in Westminster Hall in Parliament to share their experiences of being turned away by businesses as a result of having their guide dog with them. At the event, David heard more from guide dog owners about the lasting impact of these refusals.
It is against the law to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog except in the most exceptional circumstances. However, David was concerned to learn that, despite this, a new Guide Dogs survey found that three out of four assistance dog owners had been turned away because of their dog.
The survey found that refusals were most common from taxis and minicabs, with 73 per cent of those who took part in the survey reporting negative experiences in the last twelve months. Refusals at restaurants (54 per cent), newsagents (42 per cent) and high street shops (36 per cent) were also common.
As a result, Guide Dogs is calling for all taxi and minicab drivers to be required to take disability equality training so they are aware of the rights of disabled passengers. Guide Dogs also supports changes to equality legislation to make action against businesses who refuse access easier.
Chris Theobald, Public Affairs Manager at Guide Dogs, said, “The law is very clear that assistance dog owners have the same rights as anyone else to shop, take a taxi or visit their local restaurant. Despite this, our survey shows assistance dog owners face refusals on a regular basis. When you rely on their guide dog to get around, businesses that refuse to allow your dog in are effectively slamming the door in your face. Businesses have a responsibility to make sure all their staff welcome assistance dog owners. That’s why we are calling for disability equality training as standard in sectors where refusals are common. We also support an overhaul of equality legislation so that businesses that refuse access face the full consequences of the law.”
Speaking after the event, David said, “It was concerning to hear how common these incidents of discrimination are for assistance dog owners. No one should be turned away on their local high street because of their assistance dog. Guide Dogs’ Access All Areas campaign is an important way to tackle the problem of access refusals, and make sure there is greater accountability when they occur.”