Guide dog owners experience many demoralising access refusals

Today, The Times newspaper reports on a facet of UK society which is shameful, and which demonstrates a degree of ignorance and lack of respect among service providers which urgently needs to be rectified. Shops and taxis are refusing to let guide dogs in. The problem is growing.

Trainee guide dogs Ron, Eve, Atlas and Fordi from the London office are super prepared!
Trainee guide dogs Ron, Eve, Atlas and Fordi from the London office of Guide Dogs UK are super prepared! Image: Their Instagram channel.

Reasons for wrongly refusing guide dogs access to services and vehicles

According to Guide Dogs for the Blind these are the main reasons for this failure to respect blind people:

  • Retail and hospitality employees and self-employed are unaware of the law;
  • 47% of shop workers are unaware that refusing a guide dog access is illegal;
  • 19% of pub and restaurant staff are unaware that refusing access to a guide dog is illegal;
  • 51% of the above workers admit to being unable to differentiate a guide dog from a non-guide dog;
  • Some people believe that the dog may be a danger to others and/or themselves.

Extent of the problem

According to the Guide Dogs for the Blind charity 73% of blind people surveyed said that they had been refused entry or access at least once over the past 12 months.

The law

It is illegal under the Equality Act 2010 for a disabled person to be unjustifiably treated unfavourably because of something to do with their disability. This includes the necessity to have a guide dog.


Brian Lawson is a guide dog owner. He said: “Like many guide dog owners, I have experienced access refusals. It is upsetting and makes me feel rejected and worried about making future plans. One of the worst occasions for me was being refused by a taxi after visiting my dying relative, despite having pre-booked and confirming I am a guide dog user”.

In 2016, David Smith, 49, of Northampton, suffered this demoralising prejudice. He was refused entry to a racetrack with his guide dog Darcy. The organisers said that they were concerned about the safety of his guide dog.

Both the above instances were breaches of the Equality Act 2010.

What Guide Dogs for the Blind say

Blanche Shackleton, a spokeswoman for the charity said:

“Guide dog owners deserve to be able to live their lives the way they want and feel confident independent and supported in the world. The law is clear. And yet guide dog owners continue to experience access refusals, which are almost always illegal. Businesses and services need to do more to ensure they have open doors to guide dog owners.”

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