Getting MPs support for #AccessAllAreas for guide dogs

Woof and here’s my #FletcherFriday blog post!

Let me first say that I woke up to some barking news this morning. I can’t believe we’re leaving the European Union. I’m in shock (and lying down as a result). Challenging times ahead…

To the topic of access for guide dogs. Last month, I blogged that I was off to the Houses of Parliament to lobby for #AccessAllAreas. Whilst it’s the law to let guide dogs like me into restaurants, shops and taxis, many of us are getting turned away. So I joined 100 fellow guide dogs, and their humans, to get MPs to take action on access refusals. Here’s a photo of us:

Many guide dogs and their humans in several rows in front of Big Ben and Houses of Parliament
Photo credit: Guide Dogs charity

Let me share how the day went. Now, having made it all the way to London, I really needed to go (yep, that kind of go). And what better place to go than on the lawn outside Westminster. In my defence, it was the only grass area available.

As soon as I had finished then it was lights, camera, action. We were approached by a Channel 4 News crew and the delightful Emily Davison, with her guide dog Unity. They interviewed my human. Afterwards, it was off inside the Houses of Parliament.

I had a starring role. My human – the fabulous Fiona – and I were one of four ‘Access All Areas’ case studies. Guide Dogs had made our story into a mini-poster.

Me guide dog Fletcher and my human Fiona sitting on a bench with lots of text describing case study

[As there’s a lot of text on the mini-poster – too much for the alternative text description box – go to this page for the case study text].

I met the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP, alongside two fellow guide dogs, Guide Dogs’ Chief Executive and a few other humans. The Minister seemed to make agreeable noises; I was snoozing most of the time. We presented him with a petition of almost 50,000 signatures asking for action on access refusals.

Then I met my MP who was really supportive of the ‘Access All Areas’ lobby and I got fusses. The humans did a lot of yapping.

Me guide dog Fletcher getting fusses from my MP, and on the right my MP, my human and I inside Westminster Hall

Additionally, I met my younger brother, Umber. In the photo below, I’m the handsome one on the right in case you’re wondering. We gave each other the run around too (a little naughty, I know, as we were in our Guide Dog harnesses). I think we last saw each other when we were 6 weeks old.

Me guide dog Fletcher on the right with my brother Umber on the left with humans' legs in background

There were so many meet and greets to be had. After all, it was woofderful that 100 guide dogs got together. I was somewhat distracted (I tried to be good, honest). Thank you to Guide Dog volunteers, especially Darren, Steve and Nicole, who helped out us on the day.

In the big photo finish, I got a kiss from ITV This Morning’s guide dog puppy in training, Clover. Pawsome!

Me guide dog Fletcher on the right sitting down getting a kiss from This Morning's Clover

Lastly and to my delight, I was on TV in the evening. It seems that the Channel 4 News crew liked us and Emily Davison did a great job reporting.

Me guide dog Fletcher looking to the right and seated on TV. Yes TV!

The whisper is that Fiona, our MP, Guide Dogs and our city council are putting something together locally as a result of this lobby. Plus Andrew Gwynne MP is championing an ‘Accessibility Bill’, as a private members’ bill, which could make it compulsory for taxi and private hire drivers to have disability awareness training. It’s early days. And I’ll keep you posted on this impawtant topic.

Woof and paw! Guide dog Fletcher.

P.S. Thanks to all of you following my blog. If you don’t follow my blog, do join them. As always, feel free to leave me a pawsome comment…

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(c) pawsatthekerb™, June 2016.

Off to Houses of Parliament to lobby for #AccessAllAreas

Woof woof! I’m guide dog Fletcher and I’m wagging my tail as I’m putting together this blog. I’m excited. On Wednesday 25 May, I’m off to the Houses of Parliament to join 100 guide dogs lobbying for “AccessAllAreas”.

As a guide dog, I get to take my human – the fabulous Fiona – all over the place. You might remember when I met Ruby Wax on her book tour and travelled on weird and wonderful transport. I get to access all areas. It’s the law in the UK.

Refuse ME access when I’m working, you must be joking! The photo of me laughing just says it all.

Me guide dog Fletcher laughing at the camera at the thought of being refused access

But, sadly, it’s no laughing matter. Despite it being illegal, guide dogs get turned away from shops, restaurants and taxis.

I’ve met restaurant staffs who weren’t welcoming. One time I heard them say: “No dogs allowed. You have to leave”. Even when my human replied: “My guide dog and I are allowed in because it’s the law”, the staff continued to refuse us access. Despite my human feeling hurt (we guide dogs are good at picking up on these things) we stood our ground, only to have a waiter say: “We can’t have the dog – what would our customers think?”.

Eventually, we were seated behind a wall at the back of the restaurant. Despite being treated so poorly, we stayed – if only to prove to the restaurant staffs that having a well-behaved guide dog like me on the premises was no bad thing.

You see I’m so good when I go out with my human. I’m a professional. Here, in the photo, I’m snoozing at “Mr Fogg’s Residence” whilst my human enjoyed a celebratory afternoon tea with our friend, Ness; (snoozing is hard when there’s so much going on and tempting food is wafted past).

Me guide dog Fletcher doing what I do best snoozing

Occasionally, I might pop up to say hello and remind my two humans, when they’re eating, that I’m being good – just like in the picture below.

Me guide dog Fletcher popping up between the legs of my two humans

It’s horrible and illegal when guide dogs are refused access. That’s why I’m off on Wednesday to join 100 guide dogs at the Houses of Parliament and hand in a petition to MPs asking them to take action on access refusals. To strengthen the law. To ensure tougher sentences for taxi and private hire drivers who refuse access to us guide dogs and other assistance dogs.

Please sign Guide Dogs’ petition – there’s still time and it’ll be pawsome if you do.

Woof and paw, Fletcher!

P.S. Thanks to all of you following my blog. If you don’t follow my blog, do join them. Alternatively, leave me a comment to let me know you’ve signed the petition.

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(c) pawsatthekerb™, May 2016.