Disability Discrimination

Saturday, December 22, 2007 0:41 | Filed in Disability, Equality, Local Interest

Or to put another way “what century are we in again?”

I accept that I probably know more about disability rights than most of my non-disabled friends, because of my interest in web accessibility, my passion for equality of opportunity (including as it relates to race, gender, sexual preference and the like), but even so, I thought everyone knew by now:

You don’t treat guide dogs like normal dogs.

For goodness sakes, when I was a kid over twenty years ago I remember seeing signs saying things like “no dogs except guide dogs”. It’s not like it’s some new law they’ve just brought in or something — guide dogs have always been a separate category to normal dogs in the UK, at least as far as I am aware.

So how come you can get a restaurant which does this?

Two blind people who were turned away from a restaurant because they had a guide dog have been awarded £1,000 each in compensation.BBC News

And it wasn’t even like the restaurant weren’t expecting them — they had specifically phoned the restaurant and told them they had guide dogs when they made the booking.

It’s not just “in case you were wondering”. I don’t phone restaurants up and tell them I’ve got two cats when I make the bookings because I don’t bring the cats. I may phone the restaurant up and ask for a high chair when I make the booking, and I would expect that the restaurant would assume from that that I’d be bringing at least one child along — it’s not that I just wanted a high chair next to my table for the sake of it.

So if someone phoned up a restaurant and, while making the booking, said that they had a guide dog, exactly how idiotic do you have to be to not realise that they’re going to be bringing it with them. Frankly if you couldn’t work that out, I wouldn’t trust you to write down my order correctly either…

Of course, that’s just been resolved now, some two years after the incident itself…

But it seems many places aren’t learning that the Disability Discrimination Act does actually apply to them, too…

Pub staff called police to eject a blind pensioner when she entered the premises with her guide dog…the 64-year-old had gone in to inform her friends their pal had died and tried to tell staff she was allowed by law to have the dog with her when asked to leave.Newcastle Evening Chronicle

Obviously the police had to explain to the pub staff at The Station Hotel in Whitley Bay (about 15 miles from where I live) that the woman was perfectly entitled to take her guide dog in with her.

What is it with these people? How hard is it to grasp the basics of equality legislation? Shouldn’t all companies at least be expected to inform their staff about their equality policies? I mean, c’mon, it’s not hard, is it?

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16 Comments to Disability Discrimination

  1. Gill says:

    December 22nd, 2007 at 10:52 am

    How hard is it to grasp the basics of equality legislation?

    C’mon Jack, you must know from dealing with idiots on the forums that large numbers of them are totally oblivious to the legislation and, of those that are aware, a significant proportion don’t care and refuse to make any accommodations whatsoever. I see no reason to think it’s any different in the physical world.

    Until Govt start to hammer home the responsibilities and some high profile Court cases get reported by the media, nothing will change.

  2. Collegue Man says:

    December 22nd, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    Regarding dogs – I think I mentioned this in conversation with you in the past week, I have to question the guide dogs – ‘normal dogs’ logic.

    I appreciate that guide dogs are a disability aid – and you wouldn’t refuse entry to the same woman had she been using a stick to get around – unless of course that was classed as an offensive weapon, but in my opinion it should also depend on why dogs are banned. If the business in question is a food outlet and the reason given is a hygene one then why should guide dogs be treated differently, or if for instance you have a dog allergy, it makes no difference if the dog at the table beside you is a guide dor or otherwise. Of course in other ways allowances can and rightfully should be made, but a guide dog is still a dog and in some instances they rightfully should be treted the same.

  3. JackP says:

    December 22nd, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    I understand – or at least I think I understand the point you’re trying to make about hygiene – but there’s a significant difference between letting a guide dog into the public areas of a bar or restaurant where that dog is of significant assistance to its owner, and letting that dog wander through the kitchens and food preparation areas.

    Granted, if other dogs are barred from the public areas of that restaurant for reasons of hygiene, a guide dog may post the same risks – but there’s a significant difference between being a dog owner who doesn’t care and consider about other people’s comfort or wellbeing and wants to drag their mangy mutt everywhere with them, even though they could go to the restaurant by themselves, and the situtation where a guide dog is of such assistance to its owner that they would have difficulties without it.

    So basically, I do think guide dogs are a special case.

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  5. Des Coutinho says:

    June 22nd, 2008 at 8:14 am

    On the hygiene problem the case is listed in the Equalities Commision Home Page, hygiene wasn’t the reason for refusal the owner had been sued in the past, it was financial. Perhaps a legal distinction but the one that matters in court. Further does not the Disability Discrimination Act/ Human Rights Act provide distinct legal rights for people with disabilities in order to allow them to have equal access to services. So it’s not the same as it has been for twenty years. When I first came to UK it was legal to put up signs no Blacks no Jews no Dogs. The Act therefore can be made to apply to any service dog required by a person claiming a disability. The dog does not have to be special. So for example in order to accomodate a mildly autistic person with their pet which they take with them to calm themselves (and is therefore a service animal regardless of it’s training) the owner of the premises having been warned should either allow the person with pet access or provide reasonable cover e.g. a CPN or other professional, a dog handler to take care of the dog outside. The real reason as ever is that we don’t want ugly people confronting us when we take our leisure. It’s not about hygiene per se. It’s about prejudice and the difficulties of being an anti-discriminatory bigot in a bigoted society. As with all legislation people back down if you sound serious there may not be need for test cases if proprietors become reasonable about access.

  6. Kevin Morris says:

    April 7th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    As a guide dog owner I have personal experience of the embarrassment caused when having to argue (often in front of other customers) your right to enter a restaurant with a guide dog.

    On 7 March 2009 I entered a restaurant in London’s Chinatown with my guide dog (in full harness clearly identifying her as a working guide dog), my fiancee and my fiancee’s daughter. On requesting a table I was told that no dogs where allowed on to the premises and despite showing the establishment’s staff a copy of a standard letter, from the Royal National Institute of the Blind which explains the duty of service providers, under the DDA to admit guide dogs the restaurant remained unwilling to admit me.

    During the incident erroneous statements where made (by the restaurant’s staff) about the possible alergic reactions of other customers to the presence of my guide dog.

    Unbelievably I was offered a table but only on the condition that my guide dog remain outside the establishment, on the street!

    The point about hygiene is not an excuse for failing to admit a guide dog to food premises as all guide dog owners carry a card, issued by the Institute of Environmental Health Officers which states that assistance dogs pose no threat to hygiene and should be admitted to food premises.

  7. Kevin says:

    April 7th, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Discrimination against visually impaired guide dog owners is by no means the only example of the unequal treatment suffered by disabled people. Just a few days ago, on attempting to contact a firm of solicitors, via the contact form on their website I came across the use of captcha, the result being my totally inability to submit the form.

    As a user of access technology (jaws which converts text into speech and/or braille) captcha software interprets Jaws (and other similar screen reading programmes) as bots/spammers and therefore many blind people are unable to post without calling on the help of sighted friends/colleagues.

    If a solicitor’s site is not wholly accessible then what hope for other websites! Incidentally its great that you can post on this one without having to contend with dratted captcha.

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