Today we have launched our new ‘Open Doors’ campaign to help end illegal access refusals experienced by guide dog owners.
Guide dog owners continue to face access refusals from businesses and services including cafés, shops, restaurants, pubs, and taxis because they are accompanied by their guide dog – despite this almost always being illegal.
The law is clear. In England, Scotland and Wales the Equality Act means guide dog and other assistance dog owners have the right to enter most services, premises, and vehicles with their guide dog. In Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act gives guide dog owners the same rights.
New interim Guide Dogs research found that 76% of guide dog owners have been refused access to a business or service at some point. While around half of guide dog owners (49%) said they had changed or restricted their plans because they were worried about being challenged or refused access to a business or service because of their guide dog.
We have listened to the concerns of guide dog owners and in response, we have launched the Open Doors campaign, which will support guide dog owners, educate businesses and service providers, and seek to strengthen the law.
The first step in this has been developing a game-changing new app that makes it quick and easy for guide dog owners to report access refusals to us, get support, or educate businesses on access rights.
As well as providing guide dog owners with a better service, this will give Guide Dogs the latest information on where access refusals are happening and help us spot patterns or repeat offenders. So, reporting an access refusal can do more than support one individual, it can help us get an accurate picture so we can challenge them at large.
The Guide Dogs access app is free and can be downloaded from the App Store for either iOS or Android devices.
As part of the Open Doors campaign, we will be working with businesses to ensure they have Open Doors for blind and partially sighted people who are accompanied by their life changing guide dogs. We will be reaching out to businesses of all types to offer our support and raise awareness of the law around access rights for guide dogs and other assistance dog owners.
The next phase of our campaign will see us work with businesses, encouraging them to sign up to support our ‘Open Doors’ campaign and find ways of demonstrating their support, for example by using window stickers. That is not all we plan to do on access refusals this year.
We will also be looking at how the law might be strengthened to stop access refusals from happening.
Ending access refusals once and for all will take a lot of work. That is why our campaign is going to be so broad, involving everyone from independent retailers to large supermarkets and the government. There will be action that every supporter of Guide Dogs can take if they want to get behind the Open Doors campaign – just watch this space!
Guide dog owners can continue to report access refusals and seek support from Guide Dogs by contacting us through our Guide Line phone number on 0800 781 1444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Service user Dave Kent says he was left feeling “publicly humiliated” after a recent access refusal in a Marks and Spencer shop.
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.
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.