Guide Dogs launches campaign against illegal access refusals

(Left to right) Guide dogs Inca, Watson and Kenzie (Picture: Guide Dogs)

Guide Dogs is launching a new free of charge access app to empower guide dog owners to report businesses that refuse them entry.

It seems that some businesses and individuals still don’t know they cannot prevent guide dogs from entering their premises.

In fact, it’s against the law to tell a guide dog owner they can’t enter a business, access a service, or challenge them about their entry because they have their guide dog with them.

Worryingly 81% of guide dog owners have experienced an access refusal and almost three in four (73%) had experienced one in the past 12 months.

So six guide dog owners (alongside their dogs) have gathered to showcase the impact access refusals have on their lives.

They are backed by the charity Guide Dogs who have launched their ‘Open Doors’ campaign, urging the public to sign a petition to the Government, and encouraging the download of their free of charge app, that allows guide dog owners to easily and quickly report illegal access refusals. 

Guide dog owner Brian from Lincolnshire and his assistance dog Giles stood side by side to raise awareness of illegal access refusal

Guide dog owner Brian from Lincolnshire and his assistance dog Giles stood side by side to raise awareness of illegal access refusal Picture: Guide Dogs

Guide dog owner Brian Lawson shared why campaigning against illegal access refusals is important to him.

Brian said: ‘Like many guide dog owners, I have experienced access refusals.

‘It is upsetting and makes me feel rejected and worried about making future plans.

‘One of the worst occasions for me was being refused by a taxi after visiting my dying relative, despite having pre-booked and confirming I am a guide dog user.

‘I hope this campaign helps to change the dial and make a long-lasting change by educating the public and business owners alike, so that these types of refusals don’t happen again to anyone like me.’

Sisters Jessica and Melissa Driver from Cheshire, along with their assistance dogs Watson and Kenzie Picture: Guide Dogs

Melissa Driver was unable to celebrate her graduation from university, because of her guide dog, and both she and her sister Jessica were asked to leave a restaurant due to their assistance dogs.

When guide dog owners are unable to access places they have every right to be in, it prevents them from completing daily tasks and living their life to the fullest.

Almost half of guide dog owners said they change or restrict their plans to certain places because of concerns over being refused access to a particular place.

And refusals aren’t isolated to one particular industry.

Riley had a panic attack after being asked to leave her guide dog Yashka outside when going to a burger chain restaurant Picture: Guide Dogs

Guide dog owners reported experiencing access refusals at food and drink establishments, taxis and private hire vehicles and shops.

The group hope to educate the public and businesses and grow understanding for how experiencing an access refusal can leave nearly one in five respondents feeling frustrated, sad and humiliated.

A staggering 47% of retail staff and 19% of hospitality staff were unaware that refusing a guide dog is illegal, and one in two said they would struggle to identify a guide dog or assistance dog from a pet dog. 

This is why educating the public and business is so important.

Elaine is pictured with her assistance dog to promote awareness around illegal access refusals because she was told to get off of a bus with her dog Picture: Guide Dogs

Blanche Shackleton, Head of Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns at Guide Dogs, said: ‘Guide dog owners deserve to be able to live their lives the way they want and feel confident, independent and supported in the world.

‘The law is clear, and yet guide dog owners continue to experience access refusals, which are almost always illegal.

‘Businesses and services need to do more to ensure they have open doors to guide dog owners.

Guide dogs and their owners display placard to raise awareness of illegal access refusals to guide dogs and share the impact this has on their visually impaired owners’ lives Picture: PA

‘We have listened to the concerns of guide dog owners and in response, we have launched the Open Doors campaign.

‘The first element of this is the launch of our game-changing new app that makes it quick and easy for guide dog owners to report access refusals to us, get support, or educate businesses on access rights.

‘We’re coupling this with our ask of government to strengthen the law in relation to access refusals to end them once and for all.’

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