Blind association campaigners lobby at Westminster for tougher laws against access refusals
More than 100 campaigners from across the country lobbied at Westminter to ask for tougher laws to prevent businesses - and taxi drivers - turning away guide dog owners.
A total of 24 guide dog owners from across East Anglia joined the national campaign to highlight discrimination. Members of the King's Lynn branch of the Guide Dogs Association helped to hand over a country-wide petition of more than 50,000 signatures to Justin Tomlinson, parliamentary under secretary of state for disabled people.
Cynthia Easeman and guide dog Olivia, of Hunstanton, said five MPs, including Sir Henry Bellingham, spoke to them.
The 71-year-old, whose sight is severely impaired, said she had experienced discrimination first hand.
'It makes you feel like a second-class citizen and it highlights your disability. It makes you feel awful and you don't want to make a fuss. My husband and I stand up for ourselves but when you have your grandchildren with you, you don't want to upset the day.'
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She added in one incident she was told to leave a whisky shop and during another was charged an inflated taxi fare, due to her guide dog.
Mrs Easeman, who had recently received a kind welcome at a restaurant, said: 'If the staff are well-trained they recognise it's a guide dog and recognise we need a bit of extra help.'
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The grandmother said she pleased with the outcome of their lobbying efforts. 'I was over the moon because all the ministers said they would contact the justice minister Dominic Raab and if any amendments or bills or legislation was passed, they would support us.' The maximum fine for taxi drivers refusing access is £1000, but according to engagement officer Helen Sismore, the sentencing is often minimal and 'very often' drivers only received a warning. Have you got a story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org