Local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has spoken out against discrimination facing service dog users after meeting with concerned guide dog owners in the House of Commons.
This week more than 100 guide dog owners from across Scotland and the UK gathered in parliament to share their experiences of being turned away by businesses because of their assistance dog.
It is against the law to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog excepts in exceptional circumstances. However, research by national charity Guide Dogs shows that three out of four assistance dog owners have been refused entry to shops, restaurants, pubs, gyms and taxis.
MP for West Dunbartonshire Martin Docherty-Hughes met with blind and partly sighted guide dog owners in parliament in support of the campaign to ‘Access All Areas’ for assistance dog users.
The SNP MP said he was shocked to hear about the discrimination experienced by people with guide dogs and is getting behind efforts to tackle the issue and encourage businesses to open their doors to all.
Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:
“I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with guide dog owners in parliament, but was shocked to hear about their experiences of being made to feel unwelcome and turned away.
“75 per cent of assistance dog owners have been illegally refused access to businesses and services including taxis, restaurants and shops. This is appalling and it’s clear from speaking with guide dog owners that this discrimination is robbing people of their confidence and independence.
“I think it’s important that we raise awareness of this problem and would encourage everyone to get behind the campaign to ensure businesses and services are open to all.”
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, said:
“It’s against the law for a business to close their doors to someone because of their assistance dog, but it’s still a daily concern for many guide dog owners going about their lives.
“When you rely on your guide dog to get around, leaving the dog outside is not an option. Businesses shouldn’t be allowed to make guide dog owners feel like second-class citizens. That’s why we’re calling for better enforcement of the law, and better staff training in some sectors to stop this discrimination from happening in the first place.”
More information about the campaign by the Guide Dogs charity can be found online at: www.guidedogs.org.uk