Vision impaired people who use guide dogs claim they regularly experience unlawful discrimination by being denied access to businesses and public places because of their assistance animal, according to a new survey.
The figures, released by Guide Dogs Victoria, show that one in two handlers across the country say they have experienced rejection in the past two years, with some reporting being turned away from public places or businesses up to 10 times.
The main offenders
Restaurants and cafes and movie theatres were the main culprits, followed by taxis and ride share services like Uber.
Recently, The Voice Australia contestant Rachel Leahcar, who is legally blind, told ABC Radio how she ended up in tears when she, and her grandmother, and her guide dog Ella, were refused a ride in an Uber.
“I started taking her harness off and I hear the dreaded words that every legally blind person is so filled with fear to hear, ‘No you can’t bring your dog in here’,” she said.
“I explained to [the driver] that this is a guide dog and she has to come with you because she’s an assistance dog.
“He said ‘no, no, no, no, I won’t take the dog’.”
Ms Leahcar said she told the driver that it was against the law to refuse entry to an assistance dog, but he was more worried about keeping his car clean.
Motels, theatres, office buildings and hospitals were also named by handlers as venues where they were commonly refused entry with their dog.
Survey reveals people don’t know the law
The survey was conducted across Australia in March and involved responses from 127 guide dog handlers.
The results reveal a lack of knowledge of the rights of access for assistance dogs, according to Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Discrimination Claims.
“Access for vision impaired people and their guide dogs is enshrined in law – in the Domestic Animals and Disability Discrimination Acts,” he said.
“It is unlawful to refuse access to a guide dog and their handler in public places including shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, clubs, hotels, motels, hospitals, medical practices and dental surgeries.”
Discrimination can have a devastating effect
Guide Dogs Victoria CEO Karen Hayes says guide dog discrimination can have a devastating effect on those who are affected.
“Restricting access to guide dog handlers has a very real impact on those individuals,” she said.
“It can cause people to change their daily routine, choosing to avoid certain public areas or modes of transport, withdrawing from going about their day to day when the guide dog is meant to maximise their independence and mobility.”
To decrease the number of incidence of refused entries, Guide Dogs Victoria is planning a new public information campaign to educate the community – which will be done in collaboration with public transport providers.
Miles Heffernan is one of our specialist team who can assist people who have suffered discrimination based on an impairment like vision loss, or being refused entry to a public place or business with a guide dog.
If you have experienced discrimination on the basis of an impairment, or while using an assistance animal, you may be entitled to compensation.
For help and advice, please call our specialist team at Discrimination Claims on
1300 853 837
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