I am supporting a campaign to tackle discrimination against guide dog owners organised by the charity Guide Dogs.
On Wednesday 19th June, more than 100 guide dog owners converged on Parliament to share their experiences of being turned away by businesses because of their dog. At the event I spoke to 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. Despite this, a new Guide Dogs survey found that three out 76% of assistance dog owners had been turned away because of their dog.
Taxis and minicabs were the worst offenders – experienced by 73% of those reporting refusals in the last twelve months. Refusals at restaurants (54%), newsagents (42%) and high street shops (36%) were also common.
Guide Dogs are 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, and they also support changes to equality legislation to make action against businesses who refuse access easier.
It was disturbing to hear how common these incidents of discrimination are for assistance dog owners. No one should be turned away on their local high street or from any service because of their assistance dog, and I have sent a message to local taxi firms after hearing about such experiences directly from constituents.
I support Guide Dogs’ Access All Areas campaign to tackle the ignorance that causes access refusals, and make sure businesses are held accountable when they occur.