Rights of assistance dogs and their owners

Food premises

The Equality Act and DDA in Northern Ireland provides for blind and partially sighted people to have the same right to services such as restaurants, pubs and cafes as everyone else. It includes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people can access services. This includes amending a ‘no dogs’ policy to allow guide dogs and other assistance dogs.

Reasonable adjustments may include:

  • reading out the menu for customers who are blind or partially sighted or providing menus in large print or Braille
  • providing a seating area for a guide dog owner with sufficient room for the dog to lie under the table as it has been trained to do. However, a guide dog owner should not be placed in a lower standard area than any other customer
  • providing a sighted guide and assistance with a buffet meal
  • in self-service restaurants, staff should offer assistance
  • offering help with the bill and paying, giving change, etc.
  • being aware that additional time, effort and skills are sometimes needed when providing services to blind and partially sighted people

Making general provision for blind and partially sighted people within the restaurant

To make your premises more accessible to blind and partially sighted people:

  • choose décor with good colour contrast and lighting
  • make sure that all the circulation routes are free of hazards, e.g. planters, freestanding wine coolers
  • ensure that glazed walls and doors are highlighted appropriately
  • provide audible alarms and systems
  • display good signage which is legible. The signs should have contrasting features i.e. good contrast between the text and its background, in the recommended size and font. (See ‘Sign Design Guide’ in ‘Useful publication’ section). They should also contrast clearly with the surroundings in which they are positioned
  • provide information in alternative formats for customers, e.g. Braille and large print menus. If this is not possible, for instance a ‘specials menu’ which changes daily, staff should offer to read the menu

 Additional provision and assistance for guide dog owners and their dogs

  • change policy and practice to amend a ‘no-dogs’ policy to allow for assistance dogs
  • never distract or harass the dog. Check with the owner before any contact is to be made
  • never feed the dog. Guide dogs are working animals and are fed a strict diet at regular times; any additional food may cause the dog to be sick or adversely affect its health in other ways
  • provide a water bowl for the dog
  • in seating areas ensure there is sufficient space for a guide dog under a table or in a corner so that it can remain with its owner