Daniel Williams of Visualise Training and Consultancy talks about guide dog refusal that he has experienced over the last week.
Four weeks being a guide dog owner and I thought I would finally be independent and more confident. I am to a certain degree however, society is already putting barriers in my way to stop me from doing the simple, ‘normal’ things that I have always done! Visiting my local corner shop, my local bar and my local restaurant but can I get in? Oh no, not with a guide dog.
“This is a grocery store not a pet shop!” was one remark. I am made to feel as if you I am the problem! Clearly these people who are refusing entry are not aware of the equality act 2010 where it states, categorically that “Guide dog and assistance dog owners have important rights under the Equality Act 2010 (EA). The EA provides for people with disabilities to have the same right to goods and services supplied by shops, banks, hotels, libraries, pubs, taxis and restaurants as everyone else”
As we all know guide dog are well trained, and well behaved, they certainly won’t be jumping on furniture, scavenging for food, toileting inappropriately, however this seems to be the mindset of many people I have met in this very short time of being a guide dog owner. I have been told that my dog is dirty, well actually his paws are dirty, I raised an eyebrow at this retort as I would assume that my dog’s paws are no more dirty as people wearing shoes, who carry untold things in to their establishments! People touch handles after using the toilets, people entering establishments with coughs and colds, people whose personal hygiene is a lot to be desired so why would they think my guide dog is more dirty than a person?
Guide dog refusals has not only made me feel frustrated, but also extremely agitated, angry and to be quite honest mentally draining. I feel I have to educate people on why access should be allowed and still listen to their uneducated reasons why they are refusing me regardless. I’m now almost pre-empting a refusal before it has actually happens, I’m sorry to say. Quite honestly it is already becoming draining dealing with these people who seem to think that it is totally acceptable to refuse entry for a guide dog.
My guide dog has enriched and empowered me to go about my daily life, be that in work or leisure so why do people feel it is ok to refuse services that should be accessible to everyone but feel it is not accessible for me.
75% of guide dog owners are refused access daily, yet only 10% of them report this illegal discrimination, is this because they are so exhausted with this situation? Are they quite happy to put up and shut up? or is trying to juggle everyday life exhausting in itself they have neither the energy or the time to tackle these refusals?
Many guide dog owners talk about being charged over and above their normal fare in a taxi, taxi drivers insisting the dog travels in the boot of a saloon taxi, or total refusal of guide dogs being allowed in a taxi.
What do we do about this?
It is becoming quite obvious to me there are certain services that are sadly lacking in knowledge regarding the Equality Act 2010 for example:
Taxi Drivers: To receive their taxi licence they should undergo Disability Awareness Training, and to be fully aware of legislation and the rights of people who use Assistance Dogs.
More people with disabilities access taxis than the general population and in order to retain these customers taxi companies should be aiming to be the flagship for a disability confident taxi service.
Door Staff: To receive their SIA licence, once again all staff should receive Disability Awareness Training and to be fully aware of the Equality Act 2010.
There are many people with assistance dogs who want to access pubs for a pint just like me.
Small Independent Shopkeepers: To make sure their policies comply with the law, so that I can purchase my bread and milk on a daily basis just like everyone else
Local Authority: A dedicated regulator set-up for access refusals
For more information visit www.visualisetrainingandconsultancy.co.uk