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Open Doors: December 2022


Guide dogs can be life changing. They offer independence, mobility and the chance to live life to the full. But being refused access to a shop, restaurant, café or taxi because of their guide dog is a regular occurrence for people with sight loss. 

You can help us make change and Open Doors for guide dog and all other assistance dog owners by writing to the Prime Minister, asking him to strengthen the law on access refusals.

You can read our latest report, “Let’s Open Doors”, on our website. For further information, please contact [email protected]

Key statistics

•    81% of guide dog owners say that they have experienced an access refusal in the past. That means being told that they cannot enter a business or are challenged about their entry, because of their dog.
•    73% of those say that it occurred in the past 12 months. 
•    Almost half of guide dog owners say that they change their plans or restrict visits to some places, because they are worried about being refused access.
•    47% of retail staff and 19% of hospitality staff were unaware that refusing a guide dog is illegal, and one in two said they would struggle to identify a guide dog or assistance dog from a pet dog .
•    The majority of guide dog owners say that access refusals make them feel ‘discriminated against’, ‘unsafe’ and ‘rejected’.
•    Food and drink outlets, like cafes, pubs and restaurants, were the most common sources of access refusals in the past 12 months.

What is an access refusal?

An access refusal is when a guide dog owner is told that they cannot enter a business, access a service or is challenged about their entry because they have their dog with them. Access refusals are almost always illegal and are a deeply harmful form of discrimination.

What does the law say?

Assistance dog owners have a legal right to access businesses and services without discrimination (the Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland).
Whilst we welcome this legislation, it does not go far enough and is not protecting people with sight loss. Guide dog owners who are illegally refused access could progress discrimination cases through the courts, but this is notoriously difficult and places a great deal of stress upon guide dog owners.

That is why we are seeking amendments to equality legislation, to clarify that an assistance dog is a reasonable adjustment.

What changes can be made?

We have been campaigning for decades to end access refusals, but the majority of guide dog owners still frequently encounter them.

The law needs to be stronger to end access refusals once and for all. Any new law on access refusals should:
•    Have a clear process, be easy to follow
•    Have meaningful penalty when access refusals do happen
•    Include clear requirements for businesses

How you can support

•    Write to the Prime Minister and ask him to take action to strengthen the law on access refusals and Open Doors for guide dog owners.
•    Meet local businesses in your constituency to talk about access rights for guide dog owners and ask them to display a ‘guide and other assistance dogs welcome’ window sticker (Guide Dogs can provide you with a supply).
•    Work with your local Council, Chamber of Commerce and Trading Standards to see what they can do to help Open Doors for guide dog owners.

If you are interested in supporting by tabling questions or a debate, please email [email protected]