When you are denied access to shops, restaurants, public building or modes of transport because you have a guide dog, it is important you know your rights, which can include remedy via disability mediation in Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
It is illegal for any service provider to deny entry to someone with a disability because of any equipment they may need as a result of this disability. This applies whether the equipment takes the form of a wheelchair, cane or guide dog. It is also important to know that, if you find yourself the victim of discrimination, there are available options to remedy the situation including court and mediation services in Herefordshire and Worcestershire to right this wrong.
This article looks at the impacts and issues surrounding guide dog refusal: the distress caused when a person with a disability is refused access, your legal rights under these circumstances, and the increasing use of mediation as a cost-effective means of addressing these instances of discrimination.
Equality of Access legislation
Under the Equality Act of 2010 people with disabilities have the same right to access businesses, leisure and hospitality services, public transport and public buildings as their able bodied peers. There should be no increase in the costs of any service and no disability discrimination in these circumstances.
Businesses and service providers are legally obliged to provide ‘reasonable adjustment’ to their facilities and services to ensure equality of access for all individuals, regardless of disability. As a term, ‘reasonable adjustment’ is fairly vague in construction, and open to misinterpretation by businesses and service providers. It is important to know therefore that denial of access to someone with a guide or assistance dog can only be acceptable in very rare circumstances, which are referenced later in this article.
The scale of the problem
A recent Guide Dogs survey revealed that three quarters of owners of guide and assistance dogs have at some point been refused entry to a business, public building or mode of transport when with their dog. This is despite the vast majority claiming that on a day to day basis their experiences of access had been largely positive.
The impacts of discrimination
We all know it can take just one instance of discrimination to undermine the confidence of anyone. Its impacts can be far greater for someone who may already feel vulnerable because of their disability.
Being denied entry is not only frustrating in itself, but is also potentially dangerous if it prevents access to vital goods and services. It is also deeply undermining, exacerbating the social isolation many people with disabilities already feel in their daily lives and interactions. It can also be deeply humiliating to be treated essentially as a second class citizen, and denied access to the social opportunities other people take for granted.
Reasons for refusal
Uninformed business owners and service providers may cite a range of reasons for not admitting a working guide dog to their premises. These can include health and safety concerns relating to areas where food is prepared and served, potential customer and staff allergies that a dog might induce, and the general mess a dog might create if, for example, it was caked in mud.
People with disabilities have the right to expect reasonable adjustments in all of these instances, but not the right to automatically demand access irrespective of the consequences to the business. If, for example, a small café owner has an extreme allergic reaction to animal fur, it may go beyond the scope of reasonable adjustment to demand access. Similarly, if someone with a guide dog is looking to access certain controlled areas within a hospital, the hospital would have the right to deny entry. Under either of these circumstances however, the café or hospital would have a responsibility for ensuring your assisted access, and ensuring the safety of your dog.
It is important to be aware that instances of lawful refusal are very rare, and the vast majority of refusals will be unlawful and open to challenge.
What would you do?
When witnessing or experiencing refusal on the part of a business owner or service provider, how should you respond? Evidence is key, and provides a vital source of information for any potential prosecution. Make a note of any dispute, or use your smart phone to record any footage that might be useful. If the dispute is over access to a taxi cab, if possible record the vehicle’s licence plate or registration number or ask for assistance to help you do so. If you are offering assistance to someone with a visual disability, be aware of the importance of introducing yourself to this person as you approach, bearing in mind they may not be aware of your presence.
Getting something done
Whether or not you have physical evidence of denied entry, you do have the right to seek redress. You can seek advice on making a complaint to a service provider because of the way you have been treated by calling the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 and asking to be connected to the Legal Rights Service or alternatively you can call Centre for Resolution and enquire about disability mediation on 07775445614.
Options may involve redress through a legal representative, or the more commonly chosen option of mediation.
The advantages of mediation are threefold. Mediation tends to lead to far swifter resolution than litigation. It is often conducted and resolved over the course of a day, whereas legal proceedings can often take months to resolve. Secondly, because resolution tends to be speedier, costs are likely to be significantly lower, and the option of litigation can be preserved in the unusual event that resolution isn’t arrived at.
The aim of mediation is always to understand and resolve, whereas legal wrangling often has the opposite effect of entrenching opposed positions. By giving both parties a voice and an opportunity to express their point of view it not only empowers, but allows them the opportunity for a fuller understanding and clearer perspectives.
For more information about disability mediation, please visit www.centreforresolution.com/disability-mediation
Family mediation in Droitwich, Kidderminster or any of the surrounding Worcestershire towns is an excellent way to solve disputes amicably, and relates to issues surrounding family breakdown. An impartial mediator encourages the parties involved to explore issues and concerns, with the aim of achieving consensus and reaching mutually agreed decisions.
Mediation versus litigation
Mediation services in Worcestershire are readily available from a reputable local firm and provides family members with the opportunity to discuss their issues face to face; they can work through them in the presence of an impartial facilitator, and avoid misunderstandings and tensions that can arise when negotiations are placed solely in the hands of legal representatives. Participants can take agreements made during mediation to solicitors, who will then draw up a legal framework to make the agreements legally binding.
How can mediation in Worcester help you?
Any mediation process is tailored around the issues that you need to discuss and resolve. Both parties work together with their mediator to clarify the issues, and then work to find common ground within this framework.
Common issues raised during mediation include divorce, separation, arrangements for children and division of finances or any property. Resolution of these issues often involves sharing fairly complex financial information on each party’s financial situation, such as income and expenditure; this can be incorporated into a financial agreement which suits both parties, and also makes provision for any children within the family unit.
The four principles of mediation
There are four basic principles of mediation. Mediation is impartial, decision-making rests with the participants, the process is confidential unless issues are raised surrounding child protection, and the process has to be entered into voluntarily. Below, these principles are examined in a little more detail.
Mediation is voluntary
Both parties entering family mediation need to want to engage in mediation, and can terminate the mediation process at any point. Mediation is a voluntarily process, and although courts encourage families to attempt mediation before engaging in litigation, it is never something that can be imposed on family members, and in certain instances will not be an appropriate course of action.
Mediators will always be impartial
A mediator maintains a neutral position in any family mediation process, and will not take sides or give advice. Their role is to guide discussion in an attempt to achieve resolution of the issues, and also to present legal frameworks that the parties need to consider and work within.
The mediation process is confidential
Any information shared during family mediation cannot be referenced in a court of law, if the mediation process does not achieve resolution, and litigation follows. Information shared by each party remains confidential. There are very few exceptions to this principle, which relate to child safety issues, and in rare instances to counselling and legal directives.
Decision-making remains yours
Nothing will be decided by your mediator. They simply help you work towards resolutions you agree you would like to take forward. Any decisions you reach will only become binding if you ask a lawyer to incorporate them into a legally-binding document.
For more information on family mediation in Worcester, or to discuss mediation services in Hereford and any of the surrounding districts, email or call Centre for Resolution email@example.com 07775445614.
The 2010 Equality Act provides a legal framework ‘to protect the rights of individuals, and advance equality of opportunity for all’. The act combines and strengthens earlier legislation to provide an anti-discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society. The nine main characteristics protected by this act are as follows:
· gender reassignment
· marriage and civil partnership
· pregnancy and maternity
· religion or belief
· sexual orientation
Equality in action
It is one thing to have equality for all enshrined within a legal framework, of course, and quite another to have these as functioning social values. Individuals, under any of the above characteristics, can feel that they are discriminated against in their everyday lives, whether this be at work, within the community or in relation to a service provider; they may wish to seek redress for these breaches of the equality act.
Heading to the courts
For many, their first thought in addressing perceived discrimination will be adversarial. This can be problematic. Firstly, a successful case will depend upon a burden of proof which may not be available or may be highly subjective and open to varied interpretation. Secondly, in the case of an employee bringing a discrimination case against an employer for example, whatever the outcome of legal proceedings, the relationship may have been irrevocably damaged.
Equality and diversity mediation
Mediation provides a positive alternative. Through the involvement of an objective, independent mediator, both parties stand to gain a greater understanding of the fundamental issues of discrimination as they relate to their particular case. The opportunity for discussion that the mediation process facilitates also allows each party to understand more cogently the position of the other regarding the alleged discrimination, and to move forward constructively in an improved relationship.
In short, mediation allows the opportunity to resolve discrimination disputes without the need for potentially damaging adversarial proceedings, whilst the option to proceed to law remains open to both parties.
Contact: For more information about our equality and discrimination mediation services please contact us.
M. 07775 445614