A blind woman has claimed she was forced to leave a Premier Inn hotel because staff did not think she “looked blind” or that her golden retriever was an assistance dog.
Angharad Paget-Jones, 29, who is blind, told the PA news agency that she was forced to leave the Premier Inn in Enfield on November 5 because she supposedly broke the group’s policy about not bringing pets onto the premises, with the exception of assistance dogs, despite having proof.
She said that about 10pm at night, her boyfriend took her dog Tudor for a walk, when staff at reception asked for proof that the dog was a guide dog.
“He pointed to the Guide Dogs leads and the tag he wears on his collar, but was asked for documentation”, the disability rights campaigner from Port Talbot, Wales said.
Ms Paget-Jones said that she had to use the door to “cover her modesty” as she was in a “state of undress” and was asked to provide “documents that just don’t exist for a guide dog” by people who never identified themselves to her.
She responded by asking for the manager and closed the door but was later made to leave the hotel because staff said her closing the door was aggressive.
Staff also said the Assistance Dogs UK ID shown to identify Tudor as being a guide dog was something that “could be bought by anyone on the internet”. Ms Paget-Jones said this is not correct.
She said: “As we were going to the lift, you could hear (staff) saying, ‘She’s pretending that’s a guide dog, she doesn’t even look blind.”
“And they made me vulnerable as I am disabled and had to wait in the cold”, she added.
Ms Paget-Jones, who recently fronted Guide Dogs’ Open Doors campaign which hopes to bring an end to access refusals, is in the process of taking legal action against the company.
A spokesperson from Premier Inn told PA: “At Premier Inn we take the needs and equal treatment of all our guests extremely seriously and all team members receive disability awareness training to make sure our guests all get the same warm welcome and enjoy a great stay.
“We were shocked and appalled to see the upsetting Twitter thread alleging that a guest was asked to leave one of our hotels in Enfield.
“An urgent investigation is already underway with that site to find out exactly what’s happened and we’ve reached out to the Twitter user to fully understand the circumstances of what has taken place and apologise for the upset caused.”
Blanche Shackleton, head of policy, public affairs and campaigns at Guide Dogs, said: “Guide dog owners deserve to be able to live their lives the way they want and feel confident, independent, and supported in the world.
“The law is clear, and yet guide dog owners continue to experience access refusals, which are almost always illegal.
“We are deeply concerned to hear Angharad’s account of her experience.”
A petition which has close to 10,000 signatures and encourages businesses to have “open doors” for guide dogs has been created by the charity here.