A guide dog owner was left shocked and humiliated last week after two Leicester Square restaurants would not allow her and her family to eat there with their guide dogs.
Siobhan Meade, along with husband Sean and sister Keely, had been in Leicester Square enjoying the premier of the Paw Patrol movie, when they decided to stop for something to eat.
Initially the group was told they could not dine at the Jollibee restaurant because of Siobhan’s guide dog Marty and Sean’s guide dog Sammy. Despite Siobhan explaining Marty and Sammy were guide dogs, the restaurant staff still maintained the dogs were not allowed in.
The group were then refused service at the Little Italy restaurant in Leicester Square, before being told they could only be served outside in the rain.
Siobhan, who works for Guide Dogs, explained: “I didn’t want to make a scene. I felt embarrassed and humiliated at that point and my heart sank because it was such a lovely morning and then to have these access refusals – it was horrible.
“Access refusals like this, especially one after the other, is soul crushing. It’s a constant fight and you always think ‘is this restaurant going to refuse me?’ You just feel like a second-class citizen. If this happened to anyone else of a protected characteristic people would be up in arms about it, and rightly so. I just don’t see why it doesn’t seem to be as big an issue as it ought to be really, as there are over 5,000 guide dogs across the UK.”
Under the Equality Act, guide dog and other assistance dog owners have the right to enter most services, premises, and vehicles with their dogs. Our research shows that 75 per cent of assistance dog owners have been refused access to a restaurant, shop or taxi.
A Guide Dogs spokesperson said: “All blind and partially sighted people deserve to be able to live their lives the way they want and feel confident, independent and supported in the world. 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.”
The two restaurants, Jollibee and Little Italy, have both since apologised to Siobhan and Sean, who is a journalist.