FAQ

Who can I contact if I experience an access refusal? 

How can I contact my local taxi licensing authority so I can report what has happened to me. Where will I find this information? What should I ask them to do?

Is it illegal to refuse access to an assistance dog owner?

Does the Equality Act apply across the UK? 

What is the scale of the problem?

What can I do to support this campaign?

Why are people refused access?

When you say taxis, do you mean black cabs or private hire vehicles?

It all sounds pretty bleak! Are there any good examples?

What should I do if I witness a guide dog owner, or another assistance dog owner, being refused access to somewhere? Should I offer to help? Should I call the police?

I am an assistance dog owner. Do you have anything I could carry with me to show people that refusing me access is against the law?

If my dog is dirty do people still have to let me in?

Can I take my dog everywhere with me?

Can service providers (for instance taxi companies or hotels) charge an assistance dog owner extra for the dog?

Can a taxi driver insist on where the dog is put in their vehicle?

Can a service provider legally refuse access to my guide dog as long as they provide a sighted guide?

I am a business owner and want to  provide a good service to all of my customers including those with disabilities. What can I do?

I have more questions about assistance dogs in general. Where can I find more information?

Are Guide Dogs able to offer any legal advice if I (as a guide dog owner) experience an access refusal? Is there anyone else I could approach?


 

Who can I contact if I experience an access refusal? 

If you are a guide dog owner and you experience an access refusal you should get in touch with your local Mobility Team who will be able to help and support you. You can find the contact details of your local team here http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/aboutus/local-to-you/mobility-teams/ or by calling 0118 983 5555. Owners of other types of assistance dog should contact the organisation that provided their dog.

 

How can I contact my local taxi licensing authority so I can report what has happened to me. Where will I find this information? What should I ask them to do?

Your local taxi licensing authority normally sits within your local council so a good way to find them will be to go on your council website or call the council switchboard. When you speak to the licensing officer you should give them all the details of the access refusal and the impact that it had on you. You should then request that they bring a prosecution against the driver responsible and suspend (or in the case of a repeat offender, withdraw) their licence.

 

Is it illegal to refuse access to an assistance dog owner?

It is against the law for service providers to treat people with disabilities less favourably because of their disability, or because they use disability related equipment such as a wheelchair or have a guide or assistance dog with them.

Businesses need to make “reasonable adjustments”. This might mean giving extra help, such as guiding someone to a restaurant table, or making some changes to the way you provide your services to make it easier for blind and partially-sighted people to use them. It certainly includes allowing guide dogs and assistance dogs into almost all public places when accompanied by their owners. There are extremely rare examples of where it may be inappropriate to take a dog, but, as a general rule, if members of the public are allowed access to a place or a service, then so is an assistance dog owner with their dog. 

Guide dog and assistance dog owners have important rights under the Equality Act 2010 (the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 in Northern Ireland). This legislation provides for disabled people to have the same right to services supplied by shops, banks, hotels, libraries, pubs, taxis and restaurants as everyone else.

The Equality Act 2010 can be found in full at www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents

and the Disability Discrimination (NI) Order 2006 can be found at

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/nisi/2006/312/contents/made

Under Part 12 of the Equality Act 2010 (and Section 37 of the DDA in Northern Ireland) it is also illegal for assistance dog owners to be refused access to a taxi or private hire vehicle with their assistance dog. Medical exemption certificates can be issued by local authorities to taxi drivers who provide evidence from an appropriately qualified medical practitioner of genuine health reasons as to why they are unable to convey dogs. The nature of certificates can vary from local authority to local authority and should be provided to assistance dog owners on demand. Eligible drivers in Northern Ireland can request an exemption notice from the Department of Environment on production of appropriate medical evidence.  It is also illegal for drivers to charge a passenger more because he or she is accompanied by an assistance dog

 

Does the Equality Act apply across the UK?

In Northern Ireland the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 (as extended by the Disability Discrimination (NI) Order 2006 (DDO)) confirms the rights of assistance dog owners to have equal access to places, businesses and services.

The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not part of the United Kingdom and are not covered by the Equality Act. A Disability Discrimination Act was passed in the Isle of Man in 2006 but has yet to be fully implemented, and plans are currently in place to replace it with new equality legislation to come into effect in July 2016.

The Channel Islands currently do not have any disability discrimination legislation.

 

What is the scale of the problem?

Guide Dogs have been aware of access refusals for some time and whilst we undertake regular and continuous monitoring of cases, in the spring of 2015 we undertook a survey to find out more about the scale of the problem and not just for guide dog owners. Other assistance dog owners were also invited to share their experiences. The results showed a shocking three quarters (75 per cent) of all assistance dog owners surveyed have been refused access at some point because they had an assistance dog with them. Nearly half (49 per cent) had been refused access in the past year, and a third (33 per cent) within the last six months. 

The survey also asked respondents about positive experiences with businesses and services. There were a large quantity of comments on the subject of good practice, and particularly positive was the fact 125 respondents stated they felt welcomed in most or all businesses and services.  

 

What can I do to support this campaign?

We have produced several resources to help you campaign on this issue. You can find them here or get in touch at campaigns@guidedogs.org.uk

 

Why are people refused access?

Our Spring 2015 survey focussed upon the experiences of assistance dog owners. The individuals responsible for refusing assistance dogs access would need to be asked why they had refused to allow people access in order to fully answer this question. Some of the reasons that people were given for being refused access can be found in our survey.

 

When you say taxis, do you mean black cabs or private hire vehicles?

Respondents to our Spring 2015 survey were not asked to distinguish between different forms of taxicab. In other words, Hackney C arriages or Private Hire Vehicles (Private Hire Cars in Scotland). However, we know from regular monitoring of reports by guide dog owners that both types of vehicles can be involved in access refusals.

 

It all sounds pretty bleak! Are there any good examples?

Many places are exemplary, and guide dog owners experience no trouble accessing services. Guide Dogs also offer sighted guide training to businesses who wish to improve knowledge and understanding amongst their employees. If you would like some training for your organisation then please email openforbusiness@guidedogs.org.uk or call 0118 983 8136.

 

What should I do if I witness a guide dog owner, or another assistance dog owner, being refused access to somewhere? Should I offer to help? Should I call the police?

This is a difficult situation to find yourself in. Just as if you witness any ordeal taking place, please make sure you don’t put yourself in any danger. If you are able to make a note of what is said, and take any pictures or smartphone footage that might be useful, the assistance dog owner may well appreciate this. In the case of a taxi refusal, it would be extremely helpful if you could make a note of a taxi’s registration or licence number. You may wish to offer you contact details as an independent witness to the incident. Please remember that a blind or partially sighted person may not be aware of your presence, so it is important to say hello as you approach them to offer support. 

 

I am an assistance dog owner. Do you have anything I could carry with me to show people that refusing me access is against the law?

Assistance dog owners who have an assistance dog from an AD(UK) member organisation should have been issued a yellow ID booklet. This has been designed to support assistance dog owners with their access to goods, facilities and services, as defined in the UK Equality Act 2010. The book contains information about the owner and their dog, details of the training organisation who trained the dog and its owner. It addresses concerns that people may express with regard to allergies or environmental health considerations and importantly, it also has information about the law (specifically the Equality Act 2010) and the elements which support the rights of assistance dog owners and their dog, especially when accessing goods, facilities and services.

 

If my dog is dirty do people still have to let me in?

Similar to a situation where you may have extremely muddy shoes and wouldn’t try to enter a shop, please be considerate and reasonable when taking your guide dog places. The law requires ‘reasonable adjustment’ and if you’re entering an antique shop or an area where food is being serve with an assistance dog caked in mud, it would be reasonable for them to ask you to leave, just as they would muddy ramblers.

 

Can I take my dog everywhere with me? 

In the overwhelming majority of situations you are entitled to enter any establishment or any part of an establishment to which the general public is admitted. There are a few exceptions to this principle. For instance, if you wanted to visit a friend or relative in an Intensive Care Unit of a hospital infection control policies would be reasonable grounds for not allowing access to an assistance dog. However the hospital would still be obliged to accommodate your needs. This could be by providing an area where your dog can be left safely under the care and supervision of hospital personnel and guiding you to and from the patient.  Similarly, if you are in a shop or building society that does not have customer toilets, your dog would not give you the right to make use of the staff toilets. 

In short, refusal of access does not always mean that the law has been broken but in our experience the majority of access refusals are unlawful and so are open to challenge. If in doubt, contact us or your own assistance dog provider.

 

Can service providers (for instance taxi companies or hotels) charge an assistance dog owner extra for the dog?

No they cannot.  A taxi driver cannot charge extra for transporting an assistance dog or and nor can hotels or other establishments impose additional charges on assistance dog owners.  

 

Can a taxi driver insist on where the dog is put in their vehicle?

There is no hard and fast rule here and the most suitable place for the dog may well depend on the type of vehicle, but the safety and welfare of dog, driver and passenger should be paramount.  It would be wholly inappropriate for instance to stow the dog in a sealed boot of the car. In a Hackney Carriage the situation is quite straightforward. The dog can accompany its owner in the passenger area where there is plenty of room. Ideally in the case of a Private Hire Vehicle/Car the passenger should either be in the front passenger seat with the dog lying down in the front foot well with the airbag left engaged, or the owner can sit in the back with the dog lying in the foot well behind the passenger seat which should be slid forwards as far as possible.  It may be appropriate for the dog to lie in the boot area of a hatch back so long as the parcel shelf is removed and the owner can sit in the rea seats within arm’s length of their dog. The assistance dog owner should be able to retain control of the dog throughout the journey. Therefore it would not be realistic to expect a guide dog owner to put their dog in the front foot well and be seated in the back of the vehicle, or vice versa.

 

Can a service provider legally refuse access to my guide dog as long as they provide a sighted guide?

This is not a straight forward question and would depend on the type of service provision as in some cases it might be in the best interest of the guide dog owner (or their dog) to be provided with sighted guide due to the nature of the environment or because of welfare concerns for the dog. By way of example, it would not be appropriate to take a guide dog into a sauna. In such circumstances the service provider would be seen to be making reasonable adjustments by offering sighted guide instead. In other cases, good practice is for the service provider to discuss the assistance dog owner’s needs and preferences and not to make decisions on their behalf. 

 

I am a business owner and want to  provide a good service to all of my customers including those with disabilities. What can I do?

As a service provider it not only makes good business sense for you to offer as inclusive a service as possible but you also will want to make sure you comply with the law.

One of the best ways to find out what changes you need to make to your services to meet the requirements of the law is to talk to your customers who have disabilities as they will give you invaluable information about how the design of your premises affects their ability to use your services. You could also talk to your local authority’s licencing department, your local environmental health department and any relevant chambers of commerce or trade bodies as useful points of contact regarding your responsibilities under equality and disability legislation.

We want you and your colleagues to have the confidence to give your customers with disabilities the best possible service.  

I have more questions about assistance dogs in general. Where can I find more information?

The Assistance Dogs UK website is a useful starting point, especially http://www.assistancedogs.org.uk/faqs/

1. Are Guide Dogs able to offer any legal advice if I (as a guide dog owner) experience an access refusal? Is there anyone else I could approach?

Yes, we can offer legal support. Our local engagement staff would be your first point of contact. They can answer your queries on access issues and offer initial pointers. They can also engage with service providers to explain the legal position and secure apologies where legal rights have been ignored, educating service providers to prevent further contravention. Engagement officers can also access the support of Guide Dogs legal team for advice on particular cases. For potential legal cases, Guide Dogs also have a protocol with the RNIB Legal Rights Service who will act for individual service users to advise and where appropriate bring legal action in relation to access to services, employment issues and benefits enquiries. RNIB legal rights service can be contacted via engagement staff or directly via their website. In some limited cases the Equality and Human Rights Commission will sponsor cases brought under the Equality Act.

2. Will I, as an assistance dog owner who has been refused, need to foot the costs of taking legal action myself?

Access cases brought under the Equality Act cases may qualify for public funding (Legal Aid), but only where the assistance dog owner will meet the limits on income.

Back to the top



Share:

Join Us Dog Suited Campaigner

Want to help Guide Dogs' campaigning work? Join our e-campaigner mailing list and be kept up to date with all the latest campaigns news and actions every few months.