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Westminster Council to promote access for guide dog users

We’re delighted Westminster Council will take steps to improve access for guide dog users at licensed businesses including restaurants, pubs, cinemas and theatres.

A person walking with a guide dog along a street

A significant problem

Guide dog users being refused access to services and premises remains a significant and potentially increasing problem, despite having been unlawful for more than 20 years.

Our response to Westminster Council

In November 2020, RNIB responded to a consultation by Westminster Council, which said it wanted to do more to promote equality and diversity in licensed businesses. These are businesses which require a license from the council, for activities like supplying food, alcohol, or providing entertainment.

Our response highlighted that guide dog refusals remain a significant problem within the City of Westminster, and we provided examples of this happening locally. We asked Westminster Council to make clear in its revised “statement of licensing policy” that:

  • Refusals are unlawful under the Equality Act 2010
  • Refusals are likely to be in breach of statutory licensing objectives – which all licensed businesses must comply with.

Setting out expectations for disability access and inclusion

Westminster Council now says it will set out its expectations of licensed businesses for disability access and inclusion, in a “Supplementary Licensing Document”. The Council will consult further with RNIB and other organisations to develop this, and it will explain what good practice looks like.

At RNIB, we think the licensing of businesses – along with environmental health and trading standards – can be an important tool to ensure guide dog users are not refused access. We’re looking forward to working with Westminster Council, and we think its approach could provide a model for other councils to adopt.

If you’ve been refused access due to being a guide dog user, you can raise a complaint using our Equality Act 2010 toolkit, and you can contact our Sight Loss Advice Service for support.