Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, has this week attended a Guide Dogs lobby to learn more about the discrimination faced by guide dog owners.
The Equality Act 2010 makes clear the duties of all people to permit guide dogs without any hindrance. Failure to comply with this requirement can result in prosecution and a fine on conviction of up to £1,000. People who use guide dogs currently enjoy the legal right to travel on routes that other animals or pets are not allowed.
However, a recent Guide Dogs report showed that three quarters of assistance dog owners surveyed had been turned away because of their dog. The report showed that taxis and minicabs are the most frequent offenders for rejecting guide dog owners - in a one-year period, 73% of assistance dog owners were refused by a taxi or minicab driver because of their dog.
At the lobby, Alok met with Clive Wood, local Engagement Officer for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Alok previously met with Clive last year when Alok donated his Grand National charity bet winnings to the Guide Dogs.
At the lobby, Clive explained that facing discrimination and confrontation when trying to carry out everyday activities undermines the independence that assistance dogs bring to their owners, leaving people feeling embarrassed and angry.
Clive explained that Guide Dogs for the Blind are looking to the Government to establish an Equality Ombudsman which can investigate whether businesses comply with the Equality Act. Alok has now raised this matter with the Government Equalities Office.
Alok Sharma said: “Everyone deserves the right to travel with comfort and dignity. That is why I value the use of guide dogs which gives people with disabilities the freedom and confidence to work and visit friends independently.”
Alok continued: “I appreciate the work being undertaken by charities to raise awareness of the rights of guide dog owners, and of the confidence-damaging discrimination that many owners often face. I am pleased that the Government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy commits to enhancing disability equality and awareness training for transport staff, which will better equip them to safely and confidently assist those with mobility challenges, including guide dog owners.”
Photo: (from left to right) Anica Zeyen with Lassie, Alok Sharma MP, Clive Wood with Winnie