Campaign for guide dog access

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A Bishopbriggs woman with a visual impairment has taken a campaign over discrimination by firms against guide dogs to the UK Parliament.

Deborah Robertson was one of more than 100 guide dog owners from across the country who converged on Westminster Hall in Parliament recently to share their experiences of being turned away by firms because of their dog.

She said: “Most people are shocked and surprised to hear how common it is for guide dog owners to be turned away from businesses or made to feel uncomfortable because of their guide dog.

“I want to raise awareness about it so others won’t have to go through this in the future.”

East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson is backing the campaign.

Deborah said: “Jo’s support for this campaign is really important to help make sure no one in East Dunbartonshire is turned away because of their assistance dog.”

It is against the law to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog except in the most exceptional circumstances.

Despite this, a new Guide Dogs’survey found that three out of four (76%) assistance dog owners had been turned away because of their dog. These included taxis and minicabs, restaurants and shops.

Guide Dogs are calling for all taxi and minicab drivers to be required to take disability equality training so they are aware of the rights of disabled passengers.

They also supports changes to equality legislation to make action against businesses who refuse access easier.

Ms Swinson said: “It is troubling that incidents of discrimination for assistance dog owners are so common. No one should be turned away from their local high street or be disrupted from going about their daily lives just because of their assistance dog.

“I support Guide Dogs’ Access All Areas campaign to tackle the ignorance that causes access refusals, and make sure businesses are held accountable when they occur.”

Chris Theobald, public affairs manager at Guide Dogs, said: “The law is very clear that assistance dog owners have the same rights as anyone else to shop, take a taxi or visit their local restaurant.

“Despite this, our survey shows assistance dog owners face refusals on a regular basis. When you rely on a guide dog to get around, businesses that refuse to allow your dog in are effectively slamming the door in your face.”