Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blind journalist in Britain goes undercover to discover discrimination against guide dogs

From BBC News:

Some businesses and restaurants routinely refuse entry to blind people with guide dogs according to radio journalist Sean Dilley (pictured) who argues that current laws are too weak and should be changed to end discrimination. Each week, the Daily Politics offers a platform to a famous person to make a film with their personal views on a subject, before debating them in the studio.

I went out in London to secretly film the reaction of business owners to my guide dog Chipp with a camera hidden in the strap of my rucksack.

We were refused entry at three neighbouring restaurants, and one hotel.

The businesses featured have a blanket ban on all dogs, including assistance dogs. We were barred despite me clearly pointing out that Chipp was a guide dog.

It seemed to make no difference, even when staff checked with their bosses.

Fortunately, these kinds of scenes are rare in the UK and we were allowed in at a neighbouring supermarket, a newsagent and two cafes.

But they do happen, and in some areas they happen again and again and again.

I'm a political reporter, not a disability rights campaigner, but I work with a guide dog, and that can cause me problems.

If you knew me, you'd know that the only 'chip' I sport is on the end of my arm - and his name is Chipp, my guide dog.

Larry the Downing Street Cat is happy to have Chipp on his manor.

Like violence at a student protest, Chipp is a regular sight around these ways, although he's actually welcomed and revered throughout the corridors of power.

But you don't have to go far from Westminster to find doors slammed in your face for no other reason than you happen to work with a guide dog.

Now I'm not one to play the blind card, and not just because I can't see where I put it down.

But it's a blind injustice that the discrimination against the 4,600 guide dog owners in the UK is somehow more acceptable than other types of discrimination.

Chipp is recognised and welcome in Westminster In France, the law is very clear. Guide or assistance dog owners who are refused access to any place open to the general public can dig out their phone - dial 17.

And before you can say Inspector Clouseau, a smartly dressed French copper will come out and fine them 305 euros.

But here in the UK, the law is as clear as a politician's answer.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) says business owners must make "reasonable adjustments" to make their premises' accessible to disabled people, such as waiving a no dogs policy for assistance dogs.

Nowhere does the law specifically say that guide dogs must be admitted, and the DDA can only be enforced in the civil court.

One word describes that, pathetic!

These are real problems affecting real people, so come on Westminster. Isn't it time for change?