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Blind man told by restaurant ‘no guide dogs allowed’
A BLIND man was told to leave an Indian restaurant because he was with his guide dog.
Father-of-two Mike Leader, 60, visited Wallingford Tandoori in High Street last Wednesday with friend Paul Butcher, from Didcot.
But Mr Leader said that as soon as they walked in they were told they could not come in with Mr Leader’s Golden Labrador Retriever Cross guide dog Tudor.
Afterwards Mr Leader, a retired joiner, who lives with partner Janice Surmeli, 59, said he was hurt and embarrassed by the incident.
He said: “I felt shocked and embarrassed to be asked to leave – this has never happened to me in Wallingford before.
“It was obvious I was blind when we walked in, but the man in the restaurant said ‘the only way we can serve you is if you leave your dog outside’.
“I told him the restaurant was breaking the law, but he refused to give me his name.
“We went to the Boat House instead and it was fine there.
“Before I retired as a joiner I fitted the windows in the Tandoori, but I didn’t mention that to them.”
Mr Leader said he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa when he was in his 20s.
His sight has deteriorated over the years as a result of the progressive condition, and has had a guide dog for the past 18 years.
He added: “I can see a little bit, but not enough to read or recognise anyone.”
After being asked to leave, Mr Leader posted a review on the Trip Advisor website, under the heading “Rather insulting restaurant”.
He said in the review: “Arrived with a friend at the restaurant today and quite bluntly refused entry because I am blind with a guide dog. We tried to explain to the gentleman on the door that he was a genuine guide dog and it would be discriminating against me to refuse to let me access because I am blind and reliant on the dog.
“ I am most dissatisfied with this attitude in a restaurant in my home town.”
Wallingford Tandoori manager Salim Uddin, apologised and said he plans to write to Mr Leader, adding: “My waiter was not aware of the legislation. We will allow guide dogs into the restaurant in future.”
Mrs Surmeli said: “It’s very upsetting for this to happen to Mike, especially in his home town.”
Mr Leader said that he had contacted charity Guide Dogs for the Blind and asked them to look into the incident.
Visual disability charities have said that more needs to be done to educated people on the law.
Hugh Huddy, Royal National Institute for the Blind policy manager, said: “A guide dog is a vital mobility aid and it is against the law to refuse a blind or partially sighted person service in a pub or restaurant because they are a guide dog user.
“Under the Equality Act 2010 employers can be held responsible if their staff unlawfully discriminate against a customer, so at RNIB we recommend that all businesses provide disability awareness training to their employees.
“As well as making sure that they are aware of their legal obligations, well trained staff will be better equipped to understand and meet the needs of their disabled customers.”
The Indian restaurant has an overall rating of four out five stars on Trip Advisor and is rated 18th out of a total of 45 restaurants in the town.
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