Sadly it is inevitable that anybody that relies on the assistance of a guide dog will experience access refusal to a shop, restaurant or transport. It’s a difficult time for the assistance dog owner especially if the person refusing does not understand their legal duty, not to mention it is embarrassing, frustrating and can be very upsetting.
Refusing access creates a society where people with disabilities feel totally isolated, with nowhere to turn. There are many things that someone with a disability can do when they have been refused access when they have an assistance dog.
The Equality Act 2010 states that organisations must make reasonable adjustments to their service or workplace to enable people with disabilities to not be put at severe disadvantage. This would mean that a shop for example would have to make reasonable adjustments, which might mean utilising a ramp for wheelchair access or allowing access when someone has an assistance dog.
There is also a specific part of the Equality Act, which is part 12, that states that it is illegal for assistance dog owners to be refused access to a minicab or taxi unless there is a medical exemption certificate, which has been issued by a GP.
It is hard to understand what ‘reasonable’ actually means and so in some instances businesses find it hard to determine what a reasonable adjustment might look like. It is also difficult as what is reasonable to one person may not be reasonable to the next person.
When can an assistance dog be refused access?
There are a very few occasions when an assistance dog can actually be refused access. It is very important, as assistance dog owners that they keep their animals clean and free of mud as well as knowing their assistance dog rights. Just like we would expect with customers who are covered in mud, this would apply to our assistance animals. Just to reiterate the point, legal refusals are very minimal and in most cases are actually illegal.
So what can you do?
When access refusal has happened, immediately you need to challenge the reason why and make the person aware that they are breaking the law. Try to keep calm and not get too aggravated, although this can be difficult. Once you have explained their legal obligation, if they are still refusing you access, you need to make a note of the name of the business, the persons name and job role if you can obtain it, the time of the event and the reason for the refusal. If you are sight impaired or severely sight impaired the best way for you to make note is via your phone or if there is someone with you for them to take these details for you.
Once you have done this, you then need to seek legal advice from a solicitor or you can contact a disability mediator.
What can a solicitor or disability mediator do?
In the case of using a solicitor, they will review your case and see if they feel it is a case that they can support with. Then they will take steps to contact the business that has refused you access to try and find resolution.
If they do not engage with the solicitor then an application would be made to the court for you to plead your case highlighting your assistance dog rights.
As much as there is a place for court, it is a very stressful and expensive process and there are alternatives.
Where disability mediation can be used?
In the case of using a disability mediator, they would make contact with the other party and arrange a joint meeting. In this meeting you can explore your feelings and why the refusal was wrong. Then it is up to you and the person/business who refused you access to reach a mutual agreement.
The mediator is there to facilitate the conversation, to make sure both parties are having an equal amount of time to talk.
In the instance where a disability mediator is sought please ensure you do your research to make sure the mediator is experienced in disability and mediation.
For more information about disability mediation please click here.
To read a dedicated blog on wheelchair access and mediation please click here.
Telephone: 01905 21717