Cheryl Gillan, MP for Chesham and Amersham, is taking action after a recent survey showed more than half of guide dog owners have been turned away by a service provider such as a pub, restaurant, hotel, shop or bank in the last five years.
The local MP has pledged her support for a parliamentary motion encouraging local businesses not only to welcome guide dog owners through the door, but to make their services fully accessible for blind and partially sighted people.
So, ensuring that even the corridors of power are accessible, the MP welcomed guide dogs Danni and Reuben, with visually impaired owners Iain McAndrew and Dave Kent, through the door of Bellamys’ bar in the House of Commons.
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association has launched a pocket sized reference guide, entitled Opening Doors, for everyone who works in the service industry. It outlines the obligations of pubs, restaurants, hotels, shops and banks, and gives practical advice and tips on how to provide a quality service for visually impaired people and assistance dog users.
Free copies are available by ‘phoning 0118 983 8379. A new microsite has also been launched on Guide Dogs’ website: www.guidedogs.org.uk/access.
The MP explains: “ It is not only inconvenient but also very embarrassing for a visually impaired person to be refused access to a restaurant or pub because of their guide dog. I fully support Guide Dogs’ vision of a world where all guide dog owners receive first class customer service.”
Guide Dogs plans to reward good practice by presenting Opening Doors certificates to service providers, nominated by blind and partially sighted customers, who have been particularly pleased with the service they have received. These will be presented to winning businesses in the coming months.