The 19-year-old woman was dining at the city’s Yee Rah Thai restaurant but was asked to leave after the manager told her that “pets are not allowed.”
Yee Rah has since released a statement on its Facebook page saying that it is their brand policy to accept guide dogs and it is investigating the matter.
“Following an incident that happened in our restaurant on Saturday evening [September 12] we would like to reiterate it is NOT company policy to deny guide dogs. We are very upset about what happened and have been in dialogue with members of the family concerned about how to make amends. It is our priority, as it has been since Saturday evening; and we will continue to make sure we put the matter right,” it said.
The Equality Act for England, Scotland and Wales, and the Disability Discrimination Act (Northern Ireland) dictates that hospitality businesses are not allowed to turn away guide dogs and their users unless there are exceptional circumstances. The laws include a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people can access services.
A recent report by guide dog charity Guide Dogs shows that 75 per cent of guide dog users have been refused access to businesses in a number of industries including hospitality.
Jennifer Keen, public affairs manager at the charity, told BigHospitality that being refused access is a “humiliating” experience for guide dog users.
“We frequently hear from guide and other assistance dog owners about refusals in restaurants, pubs and cafes, as well as other service providers. This is a humiliating occurrence and shows there is still a real lack of awareness of the law.
“Assistance dogs go through rigorous medical screening and grooming and carry an Assistance Dogs UK identity card to ensure they have been trained and groomed to a certain level that negates any health and safety risk.”
Tips for welcoming customers with guide dogs
- Have a sign saying ‘Assistance Dogs allowed’
- Provide a bowl of water for the dog.
- Read out the menu for customers who are blind or partially sighted or provide menus in large print or Braille.
- Provide a seating area for a guide dog owner with sufficient room for the dog to lie under the table as it has been trained to do. However, a guide dog owner should not be placed in a lower standard area than any other customer.
- Ensure that the dog is not stood on or blocking a path.
- Provide a sighted guide and assistance with a buffet meal.
- In self-service restaurants, staff should offer assistance.
- Offer help with the bill and paying, giving change, etc.
- Be aware that additional time, effort and skills are sometimes needed when providing services to people with sight loss.