Security guard tried to stop her from entering urgent care with her sick daughter
A blind woman has shared her ordeal of being denied access to a hospital with her guide dog and her ill child. Dr Amy Kavanagh, a historian and disability activist, said she was stopped by a security guard at the West Middlesex University Hospital in London on Monday night.
She said she was trying to enter the urgent care unit with her guide dog Ava and her poorly baby, but the guard told her that dogs were not allowed. She said she kept walking after firmly saying that Ava was a guide dog, and thanked the members of the public who also shouted him down.
She also praised the nurse on the reception who had words with the guard and apologized to her. She said she was grateful for the medical care she received, but was upset by the access refusal.
Guide dogs are legally allowed in public places
Dr Kavanagh said that the law has existed for over 25 years that allows guide dogs and other assistance dogs to enter public places, including hospitals, restaurants, shops, and taxis. She said that Ava wears a huge sign and multiple labels stating she is a guide dog, and that there is no excuse for staff to be unaware of their rights.
She said that as a mother with an ill child, she should not have to deal with the additional fear and stress of being discriminated against because of her disability. She said that it is exhausting to constantly face this kind of ignorance and hostility in the NHS and other places.
She urged anyone who works in healthcare to have conversations with their security teams and educate them about assistance dogs. She also encouraged other disabled people to report any access refusals they face and to seek legal advice if necessary.
NHS trust apologizes and promises action
A spokeswoman for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the West Middlesex University Hospital, said that they were taking the incident seriously and had contacted Dr Kavanagh to offer their sincere apologies.
She said that the trust is fully committed to providing accessible services for everyone in their community, in a safe and welcoming environment. She said that they have launched an immediate internal review and will ensure that appropriate action will take place.
She also said that the trust has a policy of allowing assistance dogs on their premises, and that they provide regular training for their staff and contractors on disability awareness and equality.
Blind people face barriers and challenges every day
Dr Kavanagh’s experience is not an isolated case. Many blind people and other disabled people face barriers and challenges every day when accessing public services and facilities. According to Guide Dogs UK, a charity that supports people with sight loss, there are around 180,000 blind or partially sighted people in the UK who rarely leave their homes alone.
The charity says that guide dogs can make a huge difference in their lives, by giving them independence, confidence, and mobility. However, they also say that guide dog owners face access refusals on a regular basis, which can have a negative impact on their mental health and well-being.
The charity campaigns for better enforcement of the law and more awareness among the public and businesses about the rights of guide dog owners. They also provide advice and support for guide dog owners who face access refusals or discrimination.
What will happen next?
Dr Kavanagh said that she has not decided whether to take any legal action against the hospital or the security guard. She said that she hopes that her story will raise awareness and prevent similar incidents from happening again.
She also said that she is proud of her guide dog Ava, who remained calm and professional throughout the ordeal. She said that Ava is her best friend and partner, who helps her navigate the world every day.
She thanked everyone who supported her on social media and in person, and said that she hopes that one day, blind people and other disabled people will be treated with respect and dignity everywhere they go.