Ryan Compton, who is registered blind and founder of Centre for Resolution – a Worcestershire-based support service, shares what you need to know about guide dog refusal.
At some point in time, most people who use a guide dog will have been denied access to a public building, taxi cab, shop or restaurant. When it happens, it’s not only deeply frustrating, but deeply humiliating. It adds to the sense of social exclusion that many people with disabilites experience.
If this happens to you, disability mediation is one of the most effective ways of tackling this form of disability discrimination.
The Equality Act 2010 states that all businesses and organisations have a legal responsibility to provide “reasonable adjustment” in meeting the needs of people with disabilities, whether this relates to wheelchair or animal access. The problem here is that, in the past, many businesses have chosen to interpret the term subjectively: one person’s reasonable is another’s unreasonable.
In truth, there are very rare circumstances where a business does have the right to deny entry. For example, if a guide dog is coated in mud, an owner of a restaurant may have the right to deny entry in the same way they could deny entry to a mud-encrusted customer. What is important to remember is that incidences of legal denial of entry are rare, and most instances will be illegal and open to challenge.
How do you go about challenging denied entry? One option is to seek legal representation, though this can be expensive and often inflammatory. The more common and modern route, is to enter into mediation. This generally has the advantages of swift resolution, minimal cost and the opportunity for each party to present their case, listen to the concerns of the other, and achieve consensus. As such, it can be both empowering and an educational strategy to move the disability agenda forwards.
For more information about disability mediation, please visit the Centre for Resolution website.
We've worked with Guide Dogs on a toolkit that helps guide dog owners to tackle this discrimination. It explains an owner's rights, how to make a complaint and other useful information. The toolkit can also be used to spell out the law to services providers, helping get to the root of the problem and making access to services much more equal.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of RNIB.