A recent survey, conducted by national charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, has revealed that 70% of deaf people with hearing dogs have been refused access to services.
The charity has launched a new campaign to raise awareness among businesses of their obligation, under the Equality Act 2010, to allow disabled people with hearing dogs into their premises.
Feedback showed that business owners have wrongly refused access to deaf people with hearing dogs due to ‘hygiene reasons’ or a concern that the dog may cause a disruption. However, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health states that risk of an assistance dog posing a hygiene risk or behaving badly in any public space is very minimal.
Michele Jennings, Chief Executive of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People said: “Hundreds of deaf people in the UK rely on their hearing dog to help them every day, and it’s upsetting and degrading when they are turned away from a business.
“Not only do hearing dogs carry out a wide range of practical tasks, but they also provide a deaf person with the support and confidence needed to live an independent life.
“The Equality Act 2010 states that service providers must not treat people with disabilities less favourably if they have an assistance dog, so we want to ensure that all businesses are aware of this.”
Hearing dogs complete a rigorous 18 month training programme, in which they are trained to toilet on command, lie quietly on the floor in a restaurant or café, and taught not to wander freely around the premises.
Catherine Broughton, pictured above, aged 74 with hearing dog Beni, is one of the charity’s recipients who has been denied access to a business on a number of occasions. She said:
“Being denied access with Beni brings a mixture of emotions – from shock, disbelief and panic, through to humiliation and helplessness. It is imperative that the quality of life of disabled people with assistance dogs is protected through inclusion and accessibility.
“Occasionally, when I have been turned away from a business, I have been forced to appeal to a higher level of management. This usually brings forth a belated apology, but sadly, there are still some places that I cannot bring myself to revisit.”
Businesses and assistance dog users can be found on the Hearing Dogs website: hearingdogs.org.uk/access