Worcester’s MP has once again showed up in support of the campaign to tackle discrimination against guide dog owners at an event in Parliament organised by the charity Guide Dogs.

On Wednesday, more than a hundred guide dog owners from across the country converged on Westminster Hall in Parliament to share their experiences of being turned away by businesses because of their dog. At the event, Robin spoke to guide dog owners about the lasting impact of these refusals. Robin also had the opportunity to meet some of these incredible animals and witness first-hand the difference they make to the lives of their owners.

It is against the law to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog except in the most exceptional circumstances.[1] Despite this, a new Guide Dogs survey found that three out of four (76%) assistance dog owners had been turned away because of their dog.[2]

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. 

Robin has long championed increases in accessibility for people with disabilities and earlier this year hailed the announcement of funding for Worcester Shrub Hill station, and a further 73 stations, that will benefit from £300m ‘Access for All’ funding. This funding will provide Worcester Shrub Hill station with step-free access, helping thousands of disabled people every day in Worcester use trains more easily to get to work, to access vital services, to travel across the country, and to visit friends and family.

Only a small percentage of guide dogs are trained to use an escalator, therefore wherever possible increasing step-free access is vital to ensure that those with visual impairments can go about their business without unnecessary hindrance.

Commenting on the event and accessibility, Robin Walker MP said:

“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 because of their assistance dog.”

“The Equality Act 2010 makes clear the duties of all people to permit guide dogs without any hindrance. Failure to comply with this requirement can result in prosecution and a fine on conviction of up to £1,000. People who use guide dogs currently enjoy the legal right to travel on routes that other animals or pets are not allowed. This is absolutely the right thing as independence is an important aspect in the lives of many people and should be extended to as many people as it is possible.”

“I am glad that public transportation across the country has seen vast improvements in terms of accessibility and I will continue to push for more in Westminster, but we all know the value of taxis and private hire cars in certain circumstances and I think it is wrong that the convenience and necessity of these services is being denied to people with service animals.”

“This is an area I have continually campaigned on during my years as Worcester’s MP, and following many meetings with disabled charities and constituents, I have pressed the case for better accessibility in travel. I know from my own experience, when I undertook a blindfolded walk with Guide Dogs UK, the challenges some people face when using public transport.”

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.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

For Robin’s previous press releases on accessibility, please see:

  1. chris.theobald@guidedogs.org.uk
  2. www.guidedogs.org.uk

[1] EHRC, Assistance Dogs: a guide for all businesses

[2] Guide Dogs survey of 421 assistance dog owners, April 2019