Caroline Dinenage MP met trainee assistance-dogs and their foster parents to learn more about the process of getting the animals ready to be fully fledged guide dogs.
She also learned about the Access All Areas campaign to tackle discrimination against guide dog owners.
On Wednesday, 19 June, more than a hundred guide dog owners from across the country converged on Parliament. Some shared their experiences of being turned away by businesses because of their dog. The Gosport MP was concerned to hear 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 of four (76%) 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. Guide Dogs also supports changes to equality legislation to make action against businesses who refuse access easier.
Caroline Dinenage MP said:
“It was a great pleasure to meet the young trainee dogs and their wonderful foster parents who put so much time and love into their training. It must be bittersweet to say goodbye as the animals embark upon their new lives as fully fledged guide dogs, knowing what a positive change they will make to someone’s life”
It was also disturbing to hear how common incidents of discrimination are for assistance dog owners. No one should be turned away on their local high street because of their assistance dog.”
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.”