Guide dog and assistance dog owners have important rights under the Equality Act 2010 (EA). The EA provides for people with disabilities to have the same right to services supplied by shops, banks, hotels, libraries, pubs, taxis and restaurants as everyone else.
Under Part 12 of the EA it is also illegal for assistance dog owners to be refused access to a taxi or mincab with their assistance dog. Medical exemptions are available if drivers have a certificate from their GPs.
Service providers also have to make “reasonable adjustments” for guide dog and assistance dog owners. In 2004 the law was extended to state that service providers have to consider making changes to “physical features” which make it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use their services.
What the law means
It is against the law for service providers to treat people with disabilities less favourably because of their disability, or because they have a guide or assistance dog with them.
Making “reasonable adjustments” might mean giving extra help, such as guiding someone to a restaurant table, or making some changes to the way you provide your services to make it easier for blind and partially-sighted people to use them. It certainly includes allowing guide dogs and assistance dogs into all public places with their owners.
Guide dog and assistance dog owners have important rights under the Equality Act 2010. The EA provides for disabled people to have the same right to services supplied by shops, banks, hotels, libraries, pubs, taxis and restaurants as everyone else.
Read the Equality Act 2010 in full.
Information for Service Providers
Meeting your obligations
As a service provider you will want to make sure you are meeting your obligations under the Equality Act and maximizing the opportunities to grow your business.
One of the best ways to find out what changes you need to make to your services to meet the requirements of the law is to talk to your customers who have disabilities as they will give you invaluable information about how the design of your premises affects their ability to use your services.
We want you and your colleagues to have the confidence to give your customers with disabilities the best possible service. We’ve set out a few of the basics here, which we hope will help. One thing everyone can do to enhance the service they provide is ensure staff receive disability awareness training.
The responsibilities of assistance dogs owners
AD(UK) Identification Book
Accredited Guide dogs and assistance dogs are highly trained, and their owners will have had specialised training in the safe and effective use of their dog. The dog’s behaviour is a key part of this training – it will have been trained to lie quietly under tables or in the footwell of vehicles, and it should not cause any disruption.
The dog is the owner’s responsibility. In the rare event that an assistance dog misbehaves, please inform the owner who will be keen to control their dog.
If the assistance dog owner plans to be a regular customer, your premises may be included in their training programme so they become familiar with the surroundings.
All accredited assistance dog owners carry a card advising that assistance dogs should not be a risk to health and hygiene. Assistance dogs are groomed regularly and their health and condition is checked regularly by a vet.
Guide Dogs have more useful information for service users.
Improving legislation for assistance dogs in the UK
The member charities of AD(UK) have all been accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). The accreditation assessment process is rigorous and looks at all aspects of how an organisation operates, thereby ensuring that dog training and welfare, client support and the supporting infrastructure all works to very high standards. AD(UK) is open to any UK-based organisation that is an accredited member of ADI or the IGDF. ADI and IGDF are both membership organisations where assistance dog programmes are the members, not individuals trainers.
The members of AD(UK) believe that assistance dog partnerships/teams are, by definition, highly trained and fully supported throughout the life of the partnership, with responsibilities towards the dog remaining for the whole of its life. Members believe that supporting the welfare and wellbeing of dogs is vital both to protect the dogs and ensure they are safe around members of the public.
We recognise that assistance dogs can be trained outside of AD(UK) member organisations and we welcome the current initiative by the Office of Disability issues (DWP) to bring stakeholders together to create a public access test that would be available for both owner-trainer assistance dog partnerships and those trained by non-ADI/IGDF organisations. We think this public access test should be rigorous, but fair, based on a set of agreed and transparent standards. Assistance dogs should support an individuals legitimate disability or condition by means of defined tasks. Furthermore, partnerships should be re-assessed regularly, ideally every year or two. We welcome the idea of creating a national register of assistance dogs that have been trained by AD(UK) members or successfully completed the public access test and believe this would help to deal with many of the access refusals that assistance dog partnerships currently face.
We would like to see changes to the legislation relating to assistance dogs as we believe it is currently confusing and unworkable. This lack of clarity has led to some ‘rogue’ operators working in the assistance dog field and sadly, individuals and families have suffered significant losses and the welfare of many dogs has been put at risk. However, we understand that new legislation is unlikely to be contemplated in the foreseeable future, so we will need to rely on voluntary self-regulatory initiatives for the time being.
AD(UK) is playing an active role in supporting the DWP initiative.
AD(UK) Board October 2017
Requested change to the Equality Act 2010
ADUK has met with the Minister of Disabled People to request a change to the Equality Act 2010. ADUK believes that the Equality Act should recognise that high standards of training must be adhered to. Please read our submission to the House of Lords here. The House of Lords Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 have now published a report which is available here.