Access All Areas for Guide Dogs: Charlotte's trip to Parliament
Friday, 29 July 2016
A few months ago, Connect member Charlotte Stephenson and 120 other Guide Dog Owners lobbied in Parliament in support of the Access All Areas campaign by Guide Dogs.
According to a survey of Guide Dog owners, 49% had been refused services such as taxis, shops and restaurants because of their assistance dog, despite having a legal right to those services. Recently, there have been a spate of upsetting cases in the news where Guide Dog users have reported discrimination by a range of service providers. The issue seems to stem from these service providers not fully understanding the law regarding Guide Dogs - or realising that it is illegal at all. In some cases, there are reports of service providers preferring to pay the relatively small fine of £200 (which can only be enforced after a long process) rather than let the Guide Dog and their owner have access to the service. To help address this, Guide Dogs charity created the Access All Areas campaign, which Charlotte and her fellow Guide Dog owners are supporting.
"The campaign aims to raise awareness and enforce laws surrounding access refusals for Guide Dogs and their owners. In a survey by Guide Dogs, 3 out of 4 Guide Dog Owners had been denied access to a service, taxi's and minicabs being the most common, followed by cafes and restaurants. Despite this being against the law, the fine for the company denying access is only around £200.We spoke to MP's from various constituencies on Wednesday asking them to support our campaign by writing the Disability Minister asking for mandatory Disability Awareness Training and an increased fine for this breaking the law."
Charlotte, who is from Newcastle, used her smartphone to create a video documenting her day out in London and visit to Parliament. You can watch her audio-described video, or we've transcribed it for you below.
Guide Dogs - Access All Areas - Campaign Lobby - Houses of Parliament
5:50 am - our journey begins. Berry, my guide dog, who is a black labrador retriever, jumps into the car in front of me.
We then drive through Newcastle passing St. Nicholas's Church and heading towards central station.
The roads are quiet as it is so early. As we get closer to the station, Berry pops her head up and starts looking out the window.
We walk through Newcastle Central station. The station is busy with commuters, but Berry easily guides me to the ticket barrier.
The train pulls away, and Newcastle's Quayside and Tyne bridge are visible in the distance. Berry is sat up and also looking out the window.
We meet the rest of the team from the North East. The camera pans around the grand King's Cross station. Berry happily greets two of the guide dogs. One is golden, and one is black. They are all in harness as we wait for our taxi.
We drive through the streets of London, which are lined heavily with traffic, but still very picturesque as leafy green treens hang overhead. As we pass over the bridge, the London skyline is visible in the distance.
At Victoria Park, a large open area of grass lined with trees, Berry lets off some steam and plays with various other guide dogs.
At 11.30am, we join a long line of guide dogs and their owners heading into the houses of parliament. The camera pans around to show the grand buildings surrounding us. The Houses of Lords are in the background and we're heading towards the houses of Commons. We are taken into Westminster hall, a large room with high arched ceilings and windows. The camera pans around to show the room filled with people, various MPs have now entered and are talking to members of their consituincies.
<various pictures show our North East group talking to MPs from across the region>
At around 2.30pm, we leave parliament. Berry waits with other guide dogs, outside the doors of Westminster hall, before we walk up past Parliament, heading towards Victoria Park. The streets were busy but Berry easily guided me through them. We're now in the taxi and are going past Parliament. The London streets are again lined with traffic. On the train home, 3 tired looking guide dogs sit on the floor in front of their owners. After a long but successful day we arrive back in rainy Newcastle.
Thank you for watching this video of my day at Parliament. The day was a success, with all MP's we spoke to agreeing to support the campaign.