Council Chair supports ‘Open Doors’ for guide dog owners

22nd December 2022

Guide Dogs NI (1) (Resized)

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Chair, Councillor Barry McElduff, joined Guide Dogs Northern Ireland in support of the charity’s ‘Open Doors’ campaign and talking to them about the rights of guide dog owners to access businesses and services.

The law gives assistance dog owners the right to access businesses and services without discrimination. But, according to Guide Dogs, 81% of assistance dog owners have been refused access to a restaurant, shop or taxi at some point because of their dog. Being refused access has a significant negative impact on the confidence, independence and wellbeing of people who use assistance dogs.

Speaking about the ‘Open Doors’ campaign, Councillor Barry McElduff said:

“I was delighted to meet Torie Tennant and the Guide Dogs NI Team to find out more about some of the difficulties experienced by those with assistance dogs.

I would encourage all businesses and organisations to support the open door campaign to ensure that everyone feels welcome in local businesses, premises and various modes of transport.”

Guide dog owner Torie Tennant said:

“When I’ve been refused access in the past, it has been crushing. It’s a lower standard of service than anyone else would expect. If it’s getting a taxi or going for a meal we shouldn’t be denied entry. It makes me feel like a second class citizen and it would make me question whether I want to revisit a business in case I’ll be refused. I am so thankful to everyone who’s got behind this campaign, from businesses to the Chair. 99% of the time I have felt welcome but all it takes is that one refusal to knock you back so it’s vital awareness is raised.”

In response, Guide Dogs is campaigning to raise awareness about the access rights of guide dog owners and to make business owners aware of their legal duties to support assistance dog owners. Retail NI, Consumer Council NI and Belfast City Centre Management Company joined the then Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons MLA at Parliament Buildings to support Guide Dogs NI and help launch the campaign. They have committed to reminding their members and local businesses of their legal obligations to assistance dog owners.

At the time, Gordon Lyons commented: “I’m delighted to be supporting the Guide Dogs Open Doors campaign. I want our economy to be innovative and inclusive, delivering benefits for all our people. Ensuring everyone can participate in the economy, including those who are visually impaired is an important step in this ambition. Access refusals can have negative effects beyond the moment they occur, and this initiative will help to educate and inform as we build a strong, inclusive economy that works for all.”

Hundreds of volunteers signed up to take part in the event across the UK and Guide Dogs are providing stickers welcoming guide and assistance dogs for businesses to place in their windows.

The charity is also seeking volunteers in the local area to support with fundraising and sighted guiding those living with a vision impairment. If interested, visit and enter your postcode to see what opportunities are available in your area or contact or 07468 712007 to join the Omagh Fundraising Group.