Gordon is supporting the charity Guide Dogs and their campaign to raise awareness of discrimination against guide dog owners.
He attended a drop in Parliament and heard from guide dog owners about the impact of being turned away by businesses because of their dog. It is against the law to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog except in the most exceptional circumstances.
A Guide Dogs survey found however that three quarters of assistance dog owners had been refused entry by businesses. Businesses that closed their doors to assistance dog owners included shops, supermarkets, gyms, places of worship, pubs and hotels.
Gordon said: “I was shocked to hear about cases of guide dog owners being turned away by businesses. This isn’t just poor customer service; its discrimination and it’s unacceptable.
“In the 21 years I have been the MP, I have always been committed to working with local disability charities such as N-Vision and Disability First in order to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Statistics from N-Vision show 535 people are registered as severely blind and 730 are registered as partially sighted or sight impaired across the town – but we also have many more who come to visit Blackpool on their holidays. As registration with the local authority is voluntary and as the vast majority of those with visual impairment do not become registered, due to stigma and lack of awareness etc., these figures are an under representation of the true picture.
“Guide Dog owners will also require the services of our local businesses and other organisations. Their rights are the same as anyone else visiting a shop, taking a taxi or visit their local pub – and I am pleased that businesses in Blackpool on the whole recognise this. Part of the funding Disability First recently secured from the Coastal Communities will also go to working with existing and new employers to help make their businesses more accessible for disabled people. They will also train the staff so they are better equipped in dealing with the needs of disabled people, including those who are registered blind. That’s why I am support Guide Dogs’ Access All Areas campaign and other local initiatives to open up access to guide dog owners.”
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, said: “When you rely on your guide dog to get around, leaving the dog outside is not an option. Businesses shouldn’t be allowed to make guide dog owners feel like second-class citizens. That’s why we’re calling for better enforcement of the law, and better staff training in some sectors to stop this discrimination from happening in the first place.”