This week in Parliament I took part in events focused on disability access.
First, I supported a campaign to tackle discrimination against guide dog owners at an event in Parliament organised by the charity Guide Dogs.
On Wednesday, 19 June, more than a hundred guide dog owners from across the country converged on Westminster Hall in Parliament to share their experiences of being turned away by businesses because of their dog. At the event, I spoke to guide dog owners about the lasting impact of these refusals.
It is against the law to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog except in the most exceptional circumstances. Despite this, a new Guide Dogs survey found that three out of four (76%) assistance dog owners had been turned away because of their dog.
Taxis and minicabs were the worst offenders – experienced by 73% of those reporting refusals in the last twelve months. Refusals at restaurants (54%), newsagents (42%) and high street shops (36%) were also common.
In September last year I raised this issue in a Westminster Hall Debate on behalf of a constituent who had been refused taxi service because of his guide dog. You can read my intervention here.
Together with Guide Dogs I am calling for all taxi and minicab drivers to be required to take disability equality training so they are aware of the rights of disabled passengers. Guide Dogs also supports changes to equality legislation to make action against businesses who refuse access easier.
I also attend The Rail Delivery Group’s Rail For All event on accessibility and inclusion.
Many station is Lewisham East still lack proper accessibility arrangements for those with disabilities, young families and those with heavy luggage.
This is something myself and community groups have lobbied rail ministers on and raised with rail operators since being elected in June last year.
We have recently had some success, and I was pleased to help secure a share of £300m from the Government’s Access for All scheme to fund work to improve accessibility at Catford station. Similar work at Hither Green station will also be progressed. You can read about this here.
But there is still much more to be done at stations in Lewisham East and I will continue press Ministers on this issue.