Saturday, February 18, 2012

In Australia, blind Paralympian asked to leave restaurants, hotel with guide dog

From The Courier Mail in Australia:

A legally blind Paralympian has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission after being asked to leave two restaurants and a hotel because of her guide dog.

Equestrian Sue-Ellen Lovett of Dubbo (pictured) suffers from the hereditary eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, which has left her unable to see in one eye and with limited vision in the other.

She is classified as legally blind and has had a guide dog for 32 years.

Ms Lovett said she was asked to leave the three premises in the space of six hours, when she was in Picton - a rural town in Sydney's southwest - to buy a new horse with her dog Prada early in February.

"We were asked to leave them all because of my guide dog," she said.

"We were just asked to take the dog out and it was policy that no dogs were allowed."

She left after "a long and tedious argument".

Ms Lovett said she contacted the Human Rights Commission the following day and filed a complaint.

She said she relied totally on Prada, describing him as "my independence and my mobility".

Federal Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said he couldn't comment on specific cases but said it was unlawful to refuse a person entry to premises because of a guide dog.

"Refusing access to a person because they are travelling with a guide dog is a breach of the Anti-Discrimination Act," he said.

Ms Lovett competed in the 1996 Paralympian Atlanta Games, the 1999 Paralympian World Equestrian Games in Denmark and the 2000 Paralympian Sydney Games.

Picton is known for its historic cottages, sandstone railway viaducts and rich colonial heritage.