No one should be refused access to businesses or services because they have a guide dog and everyone deserves to travel with comfort and dignity.
Guide dogs give people with disabilities the freedom and confidence to work, travel and visit friends independently. There are already, as you are aware, strict laws against the discrimination of those who rely on guide dogs.
The Equality Act 2010 makes clear the duties of all people to permit guide dogs without any hindrance to most services, premises and vehicles. Failure to comply with this requirement can result in prosecution and a fine on conviction of up to £1,000.
The use of guide dogs is encouraged by the clear guidance which clarifies the rights of guide dog owners, and outlines the options available to those who have been discriminated against when using a guide dog. This includes the ability to report those who do not make reasonable adjustments to make a disabled person’s journey easier. Distinctive jackets for guide dogs to wear are available to help clearly identity them. It is also advised that any identification cards, if given, are carried by a person with disabilities to help ensure they are not discriminated against.
The Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Act 2022, which came into force on 28 June, now provides specific protections for disabled people including new duties on taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to carry any disabled person and their mobility aids, to provide reasonable mobility assistance, and to support them in identifying a booked vehicle, without charging extra.
The Government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy commits to enhancing disability equality and awareness training for transport staff, which will better equip them to safely and confidently assist those with mobility challenges, including for guide dog owners.
In 2018, the Department for Transport published an Inclusive Transport Strategy, which aims to see our transport system offering genuinely equal access for people with disabilities by 2030.
As part of delivering the strategy, the Government has committed to working with local authorities to improve street design and to ensure streetscapes are inclusive. This is in addition to guidance that the Department for Transport has issued for local authorities on street design, which advocates minimising street clutter.
Irresponsible pavement parking can cause real problems for those with sight loss and for those with assistance dogs. That is why the Department for Transport ran a consultation on potential solutions to the pavement parking issue. Options include giving local authorities civil enforcement powers to enforce against unnecessary obstruction of pavements, and introducing a London-style pavement parking ban across England. The consultation has now concluded and the Government is considering how best to make progress on this issue.
Finally, please be assured that I will try my best to attend Guide Dogs’ event on 14 June, Parliamentary business permitting.