Assistance Dogs – know your rights

9 05 2007

If you have an assistance dog, you’re bound to have experienced discrimination when you’re out and about. I’ve been refused entry to a number of shops and restaurants, things that lots of other people take for granted, because they object to an assistance dog being on their premises. Now, I don’t mind explaining about Hearing Dogs, if I’m approached and asked nicely. But when the assistant is downright rude and won’t listen, it’s another thing entirely. On one occasion I was followed by the security guard who was right in my face and wouldn’t leave me alone – made me feel like a shoplifter. Smudge does have 2 ID cards, one from the Department of Health which states Hearing Dogs are allowed on all premises including restaurants, and one from Hearing Dogs with his photo, name and ID number. Some assistants think I have made these cards up myself and refuse to believe they are authentic. Quite an effective response, I find, is to say to them bluntly, if their fire alarm goes off, I can’t hear it, so what am I supposed to do if I have left my Hearing Dog outside? You can practically see the light bulb go on.

Another common access problem I have is catching a bus. The driver sometimes tells me to go upstairs because I have a dog or to get off, and if I refuse, he stops the bus. I don’t back down from an argument like this because I know my rights. One driver even shouted at me ‘Do you have a bag’ – he didn’t want any dog mess on his bus, and shouted at me continually during my fare ride. I’ve never had a problem with female bus drivers though.

Equal access is also an issue with taxi drivers. I got into a taxi and the driver told me to get out. He then told the person behind me in the queue to get in and drove off. I was incensed. I complained to the Head of the Council / Taxi Licensing Authority, who made this driver write me a letter of apology. He then warned all taxi drivers of their legal duty, stating that breach of this would result in a fine and 3 month suspension. If you want to make a complaint, make sure you take down the driver’s number (on the cab dashboard), the numberplate, council registration number and colour of plate. A taxi driver can only refuse to take you if he displays a yellow exemption sticker from the council on his windscreen, this is for drivers who have allergies or asthma.

It is usually against the law to discriminate in this way. The DDA says that anyone who provides services, goods or facilities to the public cannot refuse to provide their service to a disabled person for a reason relating to that person’s disability. Nor can a business use a person’s disability as a reason to give them a lower standard of service than it offers to other people, or a service on worse terms.

For advice and more information, check out the DRC’s publication Know your rights guide – Assistance dog owners

Information is also available from Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.

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11 responses

9 05 2007
Fintan

Its one thing after the other isn’t it?
First we get discriminated on getting a job etc and now with a dog more discrimination.
When does it all end?

9 05 2007
funnyoldlife

It doesn’t ever seem to end. I’ve developed a thicker skin since getting a Hearing Dog as I encounter discrimination almost everywhere I go, it’s made me stand up for myself more in the face of discrimination, which can only be a good thing.

Some days are just rotten though 🙂

But I have to say, the benefits still outweigh all the crap I get. There ARE lots of lovely people out there!

9 05 2007
Phil

Why do you really need a hearing dog to go to the restuarant? Does the dog interpret for you? Come on!

9 05 2007
Miche

My mother is deaf so I know (second hand I guess) the BS that a deaf person faces in the world. I am forwarding your site info to her.

Phil,
Yes, you need the hearing dog in the restaurant because it is needed to get TO THE RESTAURANT. What would you have a deaf (or blind for that matter) person do? Leave the dog unattended?

9 05 2007
Ian C

Seems like there is still a long way to go to get many people aware of their responsibilities under the DDA. For every disabled person like you who sticks up for themselves, there are probably a dozen or more who’d back down rather than face a conflict. They are the ones who need the help and back up the DDA is supposed to provide. More importantly, Joe Public needs to be made much more aware of the DDA and that it isn’t just another meaningless piece of Blairite legislation. To use the American vernacular. We gotta kick their ass!

10 05 2007
Lantana

Perhaps PART of the problem is that many deafies nowdays are spoofing their dogs into public places, yes, restaurants, too. You can buy a “service dog” coat online easily. And many restaurant owners are hesitant about approaching a deaf customer because of the communication problem. I have personally seen this happen several times and am embarassed FOR these deaf people who are abusing a priveledge.

Lantana
Lantana’s Latitude

10 05 2007
The Cuckoo

Phil,

Your comment is absurd. Hearing Dogs are allowed BY LAW to accompany thier owners into restaurants. It doesn’t matter whether you think that this is right or wrong – it is the law.

It could be argued, in fact, that the law was written specifically for people like you – people who are too ignorant, bigotted or narrow-minded to fully consider the needs of another human being.

10 05 2007
Jo

I’ve been very lucky that I live in a small town and everyone knows me and my dog. I do hate it when people ask me why I have her when a person could lead me around. The point of assistance dogs is independence, so we don’t need people to help us all the time. It’s amazing how many people miss that point. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to rely on other people to get me everywhere. It’s already bad enough having to get lifts all the time because I can’t drive.
It’s important to know your rights and not back down. If you do, they’ll think they can do that to the next person with a service dog who comes along.

10 05 2007
Lyn

Why “not” take them?? They are highly disiplined, and do make people aware of your hearing problem.

Only the other day a chap in the GPs grabbed my arm from behind, gently, and when I turned he told me the receptionist I couldn’t see had called “next”. Everyone behind him was smiling at me.

Previously it has been a case of suddenly becoming aware of an “awkwardness” in the air, then maybe a gentle (or not so gentle) prod from behind, with a “Your turn!”. The gazes (glares) usually quizzicle and people obviously thinking you are being a pain in the wotsit for holding things up.

The majority of people I have come across love to meet her, and I feel she is enabling me to have a link and something “in common” with hearing people.

I find having people talk to me about her means I can actually hold a pretty decent conversation, without all the “what?”s etc. It keeps the conversation relevent and in a context I can deal with.

For me personally it has made going out “on my own” a much more joyful experience. I don’t just go from A to B any more, I enjoy the bit in between.

I’m tired of being “alone” when out and about. And now, I’m not.

14 05 2007
funnyoldlife

No-url ‘Phil’ –

I won’t repeat what everyone else here has said.

However I will say I suggest you read the rest of my post before making an idiotic comment like that. Maybe you’ll realise who’s got the bigger disability – you. It’s called Severe Personality Disorder. The symptoms? Ignorance, narrow-mindedness, intolerance, lack of thought.

Don’t bother to respond. I’d help out anybody with a disability, but yours? Pffffftttt!

21 07 2007
Peter Byrom

Brilliant article.

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