Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
BLAENAU Gwent MP Nick Smith is supporting a campaign to tackle discrimination against guide dog owners.
Mr Smith attended at an event organised by the charity Guide Dogs last week where guide dog owners shared their experiences of being turned away by businesses because of their dog.
At the event, the MP for Blaenau Gwent spoke to guide dog owners about the lasting impact these refusals can have.
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 76% of assistance dog owners had been turned away because of their dog.
Taxis and minicabs were reportedly the worst offenders – experienced by 73% of those who reported refusals in the last 12 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.
Nick Smith MP said: “It was alarming to hear how common these incidents are for assistance dog owners.
“No one should be turned away on their local high street because of their assistance dog.
“I support Guide Dogs’ Access All Areas campaign to tackle the cause of access refusals – whether it’s a lack of awareness of ignorance of the law – and make sure businesses are held accountable when they occur.”
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.”