Discrimination over guide dogs in UK branded ‘shocking’

Britain’s leading sight loss charity has condemned the “shocking” discrimination faced by guide and assistance dog owners, more than three quarters of whom said they have been turned away from shops, restaurants, and taxis.

The treatment of guide dogs and their owners has been described as 'shocking'
The treatment of guide dogs and their owners has been described as 'shocking'

Some 76 per cent of people with guide talks said they have been refused service, a breach of the Equality Act 2010.

While private hire cars and minicabs are the worst offenders, accounting for 73 per cent of those businesses who refused to take guide dog owners, more than seven out of ten people who visited a restaurant (71 per cent) were also turned away.

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The Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) called on people to challenge discrimination and said it was “vital that people are aware of the law.”

One Scottish guide dog user said he has encountered “aggressive” taxi drivers, and others who have simply driven away without accepting his fare.

Robert Meikle, from Glasgow, who has the sight conditions, aniridia and glaucoma, said:.”One taxi came, evidently saw Winnie my guide dog, and decided on a three point turn exit without picking us up.

“There was another instance when the driver says he ‘has not been told I have a dog with me’ and has refused to take me - after getting in I might add.”

He added: “I have had a driver flip flop between claiming he feels sick around dogs because they are ‘filthy’ to ‘I may be allergic, you don’t know’. On another occasion, I sat outside a cab with a very aggressive man for 35 minutes one morning attempting to get to college because he insisted he was in the right.”

The survey, carried out by Guide Dogs charity, found cafes (59 per cent) and convenience stores (50 per cent) were also among the most commonly reported businesses refusing access.

The two charities have created a new equalities toolkit which informs guide dog owners of their legal rights.

Kirstie Bower, director of skills, information and support at Guide Dogs, said: “Often establishments, businesses and services don’t fully understand their obligations in law, but ignorance is not an excuse. This discrimination has a devastating impact on people’s lives, their confidence, and their sense of belonging to society.“

David Clarke, director of services at RNIB, said: “Although I have experienced access refusals first-hand, it is shocking to see just how widespread everyday discrimination against blind and partially sighted people really is.”