Last night my friend, Brian drew my attention to the case of a blind student who was ejected from Tesco’s supermarket for bringing her working guide dog into the store, (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/oct/17/blind-student-banned-from-tesco-for-taking-in-guide-dog). Under the UK Disability Discrimination Act (now subsumed into the Equalities Act) assistance dogs (including guide dogs) are allowed to enter premises selling or serving food and it is an offense to refuse entry. Tesco and those employees who threw this lady out of the store where therefore guilty of breeching the legislation. To compound matters the dog was wearing it’s distinctive high visibility harness thereby clearly marking it as a working animal.
Initially Tesco offered the lady a £20 voucher. However following the BBC picking up on the story Tesco has, I understand agreed to pay £5000 to the Guide Dogs For The Blind Association (The UK charity which trains guide dogs). The supermarket has also said that it will “remind” staff of their duty to admit assistance dogs.
As a blind guide dog owner I am afraid that this incident does not surprise me. On several occasions I have been refused service in restaurants when accompanied by my guide dogs (my current dog is called Trigger). I have, however had 3 previous dogs: Nixon, Zeff and Drew all of whom have been wonderful companions and have provided essential assistance in finding my way around London together with other cities.
In most instances the issue of my guide dog has been resolved amicably by me politely explaining the law and producing a letter from the RNIB which furnishes a brief description of the legislation as it relates to blind people (including their working guide dogs). Unfortunately, in a few instances I have had to invoke the threat of legal action which has proved effective in ensuring the future admittance of my guide dog and I.
It is incredible that a huge multinational like Tesco can not provide adequate training to it’s employees regarding their duty not to discriminate under the Equalities Act. Despite the company’s assurance that they will “remind” their employees of their duty to admit working guide dogs I feel in my water that incidents such as this will continue to happen.
Tesco is not the only company guilty of such actions. Many other organisations have (and continue to practice) discrimination against disabled people.
Ironically I visited my local Tesco (it’s about a 30 minute walk from my home) on Friday and had no problems in gaining admittance with my guide dog, Trigger. Indeed the staff where extremely helpful and I was escorted round the store as I can not shop independently due to my poor vision.
I hope that Tesco and other similar organisations get their act together. However, as I say above I fear that articles like this will continue to appear.