James with his Guide Dog, Brogan, pictured inside the airport

Owner refused to serve customer with a Guide Dog

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is applauding the efforts of Far South Coast Local Area Command police who fined a Batemans Bay business for refusing to serve a customer with a Guide Dog over the weekend.

The owner of the business repeatedly told James Bennett to leave the café after he was shown with the ‘Guide Dogs Access Rights’ card, which outlines that is an offence to deny people with a Guide Dog access to public premises, including restaurants and cafés.

Earlier this year, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT joined forces with NSW Police to produce the card in an effort to raise awareness of the illegal and finable offence.

Mr Bennett thanked the police for their swift action in fining the café owner. “Reason didn’t seem to help with this person, but a fine will hit his hip pocket and send a clear message,” he said.

Unfortunately, Mr Bennett, who travels around the country for work, is often refused entry to businesses. In his recent trip to the South Coast he was refused entry four times in two weeks. “In most of these cases it was a lack of education and understanding,” he said.

Research commissioned by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, revealed that each week one NSW or ACT resident who is blind or vision impaired with a Guide Dog, is discriminated against by a restaurant or café illegally refusing or questioning their entry.

The research found more than half (53%) of its Guide Dog clients experienced discrimination in the past year, the largest percentage of these instances (40%) occurring within cafes and restaurants.

The survey showed the discrimination caused humiliation and anxiety, with many Guide Dog users changing their routines by avoiding trouble areas or going out without their Guide Dog.

“While the public generally do the right thing, people with Guide Dogs continue to face many barriers when going about their daily lives, which strips them of their independence,” said Dr Graeme White, CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, the leading provider of Guide Dogs and other mobility services for people who are blind or vision impaired.

“Imagine how you’d feel if you weren’t allowed into your favourite a café. Guide Dogs are not pets. They are highly trained to open up the world for people who are blind or vision impaired, not close it down, which is effectively what discrimination does.”

Under the law NSW Police officers can issue on-the-spot fines of $165 and penalty notices of up to $880 for refusing entry to a Guide Dog user.