A guide dog owner said he felt “publicly humiliated” when he and his guide dog were illegally told to leave a Marks and Spencer shop in west London.
Dave Kent, who works in the Corporate Engagement team at Guide Dogs, was asked by a security guard to leave the Mortlake department three times because of his golden retriever Faldo.
He said the incident felt like a “kick in the nuts” and highlights the continuing problem faced by blind and partially sighted people being refused access because of their guide dogs.
Guide Dogs research revealed that 75 per cent of guide dog and assistance dog owners have experienced an illegal access refusal.
“It is completely unacceptable and illegal for a business or service to refuse entry to a customer with a guide dog, yet, sadly, it happens all too often. Our research shows that three-quarters of guide dog owners have been illegally turned away, and this discrimination is leaving people with sight loss left out of life.”
Chris Theobald, Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs
Dave was out shopping with a friend and was stopped on the way to the checkout and asked to leave the store by a security guard, despite Faldo wearing his Guide Dogs branded harness.
Dave stood his ground, but the security guard twice more insisted that he should take the dog out of the store. When asked to see the store’s manager, Dave received an apology and the offer of a complimentary drink.
Dave said: “A cup of tea… I just thought do not patronise me. Every time this happens, it is a kick in the nuts. All I want to do is go to Marks & Spencer’s and do what any seeing person would do in the course of their day. And I want to do it unhindered.
“I am sickened by these security guards. M&S know very well their obligations under the Equality Act, but the problem arises with guide dogs with these third-party security companies stores often employ.”
Marks and Spencer have apologised to Dave and accepted that its security team was wrong to ask him to leave. Dave has written to the chief executive of Marks and Spencer, Steve Rowe, urging the company to inform its security team of their legal duty to allow free access to guide dogs and their owners.
In his letter Dave said: “Whilst the response from the manager was polite and measured, this incident left me feeling utterly wretched. To be publicly humiliated in this fashion in sight of other shoppers and members of staff, left my dignity in tatters.
“Guide dogs are provided to visually impaired people to support them with freedom and independence. And to be challenged in this way, when all I wanted to do was to go about my lawful business unmolested, like any other citizen, is absolutely unacceptable.”
He added: “It is imperative that you instruct the people you employ as your security personnel to be fully cognisant of your corporate responsibilities regarding the admittance of guide dogs and other assistance dogs, in the vain hope that this vile situation should not happen again.”
A guide dog owner experiences access refusals at two Leicester Square restaurants in London when her and her husband went to eat with their family and guide dogs.
Today the BBC shared the story of guide dog owner Damon Rose's battle with discrimination through access refusals.
Guide Dogs has worked with RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) to empower guide dog owners to tackle the rising reports of cafes, hotels and taxis refusing entry to their guide dogs.