Who lets the dogs in? Survey reveals lack of awareness of access issues for the deaf

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Schnauzer chance: Hospitality businesses are being urged to provide extra support and access to hearing dogs and their owners
Schnauzer chance: Hospitality businesses are being urged to provide extra support and access to hearing dogs and their owners
As more than 80 per cent of people with guide dogs have been denied access on the high street, a new business guide has been issued to help hotels, restaurants and pubs understand what they must do to comply with their legal obligations.

A survey conducted by charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People found that the majority of people with assistance dogs had on at least one occasion been ‘forcibly escorted’ from hospitality businesses, indicating a lack of sufficient knowledge among employees.

More than half (55 per cent) of respondents also stated that they had been completely denied access into foodservice businesses, with employees and managers incorrectly proclaiming health and safety rules and hygiene as reasons for preventing access.

“Like me, there are hundreds of deaf people in the UK who rely on their hearing dog. Not only does Philip Biggs (pictured) is the access and inclusion manager for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and has his own hearing dog called Marsh. Biggs said it can be ‘very upsetting and degrading’ to be denied entry to a restaurant, hotel or pub.

Phil Biggs, access and inclusion manager for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, has his own hearing dog

“Marsh assists me by alerting me to sounds that I cannot hear, and he also increases my independence and confidence in public situations,” he said. “The Equality Act of 2010 states that service providers must not treat people with disabilities less favourably if they are accompanied by an assistance dog.

“We hope that our ‘Who lets the dogs in?’ campaign will ensure that business owners, restaurateurs, hoteliers and all service providers are aware of their obligations to allow access to hearing dogs like Marsh, and all other assistance dogs.”

Assistance dogs: Guidelines for hospitality businesses: -

Do you know the laws surrounding assistance dogs? A new business guide produced by the The Equality and Human Rights Commission, with help from Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, has been issued to help businesses understand what they can do to comply with their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010.

  • What is an assistance dog?

Thousands of disabled people rely on an assistance dog to help them with day-to-day activities. Assistance dogs are trained to help people with hearing difficulties, epilepsy, diabetes, physical mobility problems and more.

They are highly trained; will not wander freely around the premises; will sit or lie quietly on the floor next to its owner; and are trained to go to the toilet on command, so are unlikely to foul in a public place.

They are instantly recognisable by the harness or identifying coat they wear.

  • Why should they be welcomed by my business?

Restaurants, pubs and hotels  sometimes object to assistance dogs being brought onto their premises. If this happens, the effect is to deny the disabled person the opportunity to buy goods or use services in the way other people do.

Potential consequences include losing valuable business and risking claims of disability discrimination, which could result in financial compensation.

  • What are my legal obligations?

The Equality Act 2010 says it is unlawful for a serviceprovider to discriminate against a disabled person in the following ways: direct discrimination (treating a person less favourably because of their disability); indirect discrimination (where a neutral policy or rule is applied to everyone but puts those with a disability at a disadvantage); discrimination arising from disability; and failure to make reasonable adjustments.

  • How can I tell it is a registered dog and not a pet?

It is easy to distinguish between an assistance dog and a pet by the harness or identifying coat it wears and the special tag on its collar. If you have a lot of customer-facing staff, consider displaying a small sign or sticker on the door or wall at the entrances showing that assistance dogs are welcome.

  • My business sells food products - am I obliged to let assistance dogs in?

Assistance dogs are highly trained, have regular veterinary treatments and are tested on a regular basis to make sure they don’t present a health risk. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has determined that they are unlikely to present a risk to hygiene and should be allowed access to restaurants, cafes, hotels, food shops and other food premises.

  • What if an assistance dog is a danger to other customers, or a nuisance to staff?

Assistance dogs are specially selected for their temperament and trained by expert dog trainers over a long period of time. They are tested in different situations over several months to make sure they are always under control and won’t present a nuisance to anyone.

Disabled people who are partnered with assistance dogs also receive expert training to ensure that they can handle their dogs.

  • Where can I find further advice?

Contact Assistance Dogs UK - a coalition of assistance dog organisations - on 01844 348100 or visit the website, www.assistancedogs.org.uk.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, which provides life-changing support to deaf people, is specifically targeting the retail, hospitality and leisure industries to address this problem. Businesses are being encouraged to pledge their support by getting involved with ‘Dogtember’.

During the month of September, companies can choose to display a collection box, donate a percentage of profits for the month or organise an event to help raise vital funds for the charity.

Porters English Restaurant, Covent Garden Grill , The Wheelhouse and The Milestone are among the latest hospitality businesses to have pledged to allow unhindered access to hearing dogs and their owners. Pledge your support and find out more about Dogtember here.

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