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Restaurants encouraged to welcome guide dog owners

Restaurants are being encouraged to welcome guide dog owners and adapt their services for blind and partially-sighted people, as advised in a new information leaflet published by Guide Dogs.

The publication, ‘Access to restaurants for guide dog owners’ outlines the duties and responsibilities of restaurateurs under the Disability Discrimination Act. It also explains how services can be adapted for people with sight loss, and reassures proprietors about the hygiene of guide dogs.

Since December 1996, it has been unlawful for restaurants to refuse to serve a disabled person – including guide dog owners – or offer a lower standard of service for reasons related to the person’s disability. Since October 2004, the law also requires that service providers make reasonable adjustments to the physical features of their premises to overcome barriers to access.

Restaurants encouraged to welcome guide dog owners

The DDA does not prescribe how restaurateurs should meet these duties, but the Guide Dogs’ leaflet encourages them to choose a décor with good colour contrast and lightening and to make sure that walking routes are free of hazards such as planters and umbrella stands – major obstacles for customers who can’t see.

Clear signage and information in alternative formats, such as Braille and large print, is also recommended, particularly for menus.

The leaflet emphasises the importance of knowing how to communicate with blind and partially-sighted people, including speaking to the person – not their guide dog, and asking what assistance they need, rather than making assumptions.

Restaurant owners are reassured that the Institute of Environmental Health Officers has stated that assistance dogs are exempt from the usual hygiene rules which apply to dogs, including in areas where food and drink are served.

Guide dogs are well groomed and are trained to sit at their owner’s feet, not climb on seats or bother other customers.

To order a complimentary copy of ‘Access to restaurants for guide dog owners’, please phone 0845 241 2178 or you can download a copy from Guide Dogs’ website

2008 will be Year of the Assistance Dog, with guide dog owners nominating restaurants and other service premises for Dog Star Awards, based on good practice outlined in Guide Dogs’ (and other assistance dog) leaflets.

20th August 2007

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