Publicado por: Ricardo Shimosakai | 23/10/2012

Blind woman with guide dog denied entry at Edmonton restaurants


EDMONTON – A blind woman says she was turned away from two restaurants during a trip to Chinatown with her guide dog, leading her to call on local business owners for increased awareness of guide dog teams.

Under the Alberta Service Dogs Act and Blind Persons’ Rights Act, people with qualified service dogs are allowed in any location where the general public is allowed. Violators face up to $3,000 in fines for discriminating against a guide dog team.

But when Helen McFadyen, 56, went to Chinatown on Wednesday with her guide dog Camilla, a golden retriever-Labrador cross, she said she was denied access to two restaurants.

“It’s a deeply vulnerable feeling to be rejected when you know you have a right to be somewhere. It’s discrimination,” said McFadyen, who recently moved to Edmonton from Halifax for work. She is a resident chaplain at the University of Alberta Hospital and a ministerial intern with the Unitarian Church of Edmonton.

A condition caused McFadyen to go blind in her late 30s and she has used a guide dog for the past seven years.

McFadyen said she entered one Chinatown restaurant and was refused access, then went to the Golden Orchid restaurant and was told by management dogs were not allowed. She offered to show her guide dog photo identification card and eventually management told her she could stay, but the dog had to go outside.

“I’ve never had a big scene or debate in the middle of a restaurant. It was really awkward,” McFadyen said. She left the restaurant and filed a report with the police.

“People are unfamiliar with the law and unfamiliar with the whole notion of guide dogs. There’s a lot of education to be done,” she said.

Golden Orchid restaurant manager Tony Li said McFadyen and Camilla were the first guide dog team he has had in his restaurant, which opened this August.

“We didn’t know the rules. We didn’t know about animals in the restaurant, so I talked to the health inspector,” Li said.

Ratan Lawrence, executive director of the Chinatown and Little Italy Business Association, said this is the first time she has heard about such an occurrence, but thinks restaurant and business owners need to be informed.

“Some restaurants are not used to animals. They understand the customer should be treated equally, but at the same time they think if they’re allowed to have the dog stay in the restaurant, will they get into trouble?”

Bill Thornton, CEO of British Columbia and Alberta Guide Dog Services, said being denied access to a business because of a service dog leaves the person feeling horrible.

He said education is needed to stop such “disappointing” occurrences from happening.

Source: The Vancouver Sun


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