Blind woman 'humiliated' as restaurant turns her away due to her guide dog

Siobhan Meade with her guide dog Mac.Picture: James Bass

Siobhan Meade has shared her upset and frustration after being turned away by a King's Lynn restaurant staff member because of her guide dog. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

A blind woman has shared her 'humiliation' and frustration over being turned away from a west Norfolk restaurant because of her guide dog.

Siobhan Meade visited Taste of India in King's Lynn on Saturday, October 16 with her husband Sean Dilley but was told her guide dog Marty was not allowed in, in an exchange which was filmed and posted on her YouTube channel Blind Girl Vlogs.

The restaurant has since apologised and said it would not happen again.

The YouTube content creator and freelance journalist said the incident followed a hospital visit of a sick relative, and that they decided to get some food in the town as they waited for their train back home to Hertfordshire.

Siobhan Meade - Romania visit

Siobhan Meade. - Credit: Archant

The 37-year-old said: "When we walked in we were greeted with 'dog's not allowed', we were trying to establish what was not allowed. 

"I said I'm blind and this is my guide dog, and my husband was trying to explain.

"For us it was the attitude more than the refusal, the refusal was shocking in itself but all we wanted to do was dine like anyone else quietly, ahead of our long journey back."

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She said similar experiences happen "all the time" and are getting worse, adding that both her and her husband were refused entry to two restaurants recently.

Mrs Meade added: "It is a huge issue.

"It's always at the back of my mind, if it's somewhere new I'm literally so anxious and stressed before I even get into the restaurant.

"I'm always thinking are they going to welcome me or am I going to have to fight for my rights."

The content creator said sharing these experiences to the public was important to raise awareness and educate people about the law and discrimination.

She said: "Reliving those moments, going up to the door and being faced with that it's soul destroying. I can't put it into words the feeling of sheer embarrassment and humiliation."

The restaurant manager was called and told the couple that the woman staff member "did not know" but that the guide dog was allowed to come in.

Manager Illish Rahman said: "We're in the town centre so normally we have people trying to bring in a dog, normal dogs are not allowed because people don't want it. So she didn't know it was a guide dog.

"As soon as she told me, I handled it and told them that they are allowed. I apologised for this.

"It won't happen again."

What is the law?

Under the Equality Act, guide dog and other assistance dog owners have the right to enter most services, premises and vehicles with their dog. The legislation aims to protect people from discrimination and help those with a "protected characteristic".

The Act sets out specific duties with which "service providers" have to comply.

RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) said that service providers are not allowed to discriminate against people by treating them less favourably because of their "protected characteristic", which means disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion or belief or age.

It said discrimination in providing services includes refusing to serve them, or providing a service of a poorer quality than it would to the public.

Guide Dogs said its research shows that the most frequent places that guide dog owners are refused access to are minicabs, taxis, restaurants and shops. 

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