Hotel slammed by MP over mistreatment of blind guest

Angharad Paget-Jones was thrown out of Premier Inn because staff didn’t believe she had a guide dog, reports Fran Di Fazio

Enfield Premier Inn and (inset) Angharad Paget-Jones
Enfield Premier Inn and (inset) Angharad Paget-Jones with her guide dog, Tudor

A local MP has hit out at an Enfield hotel’s “morally reprehensible” treatment of a blind guest who was forced to leave after staff accused her of lying about having a guide dog.

Angharad Paget-Jones, who was staying at the Premier Inn in Enfield Lock with her partner, complained on Twitter last week about being unfairly removed from the premises in the middle of the night. She said hotel staff failed to recognise her accompanying pet as an assistance dog, despite her carrying a guide dog harness, lead, and Assistance Dogs UK (ADUK) identification booklet.

The staff demanded evidence of the guest’s disability – although no legal requirement to do so exists – forcibly entered her room and had security remove her and her partner, claiming the documentation she provided was “fake”.

Enfield North MP Feryal Clark subsequently wrote to Premier Inn demanding answers over the “disgraceful” discrimination Angharad had suffered, with the hotel chain’s managing director replying to say that an urgent investigation had been opened and further measures taken, including retraining the Enfield staff in how to deal with disabled guests and “issuing a company-wide communication reminding teams nationwide of our policies and procedures”.

Premier Inn’s own disabled access policy states that assistance dogs are welcome at all their premises. Feryal described the company’s response as “not good enough” and said she would seek “further clarity”.

Angharad, who is now taking legal action against Premier Inn, told the Dispatch that since putting her account of the incident on social media she had heard from other disabled people who had endured similar experiences. She said: “This shouldn’t have happened and others coming forward with similar cases of discrimination is shocking. I’m clearly not an isolated incident.”

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Regarding the support shown for her by Feryal Clark, Angharad said the Labour MP’s involvement was appreciated “beyond words” and that she appreciates all the support she has received in response to her tweets.

In a statement Premier Inn said it was “shocked and appalled” about the incident and that it takes a “zero tolerance” approach to instances of discrimination, adding: “An urgent investigation is already underway with that site to find out exactly what’s happened and we’ve reached out to the guest to fully understand the circumstances of what has taken place and apologise for the upset caused.”

Research from the charity Guide Dogs for the Blind Association shows that, despite being protected under the 2010 Equality Act, over three-quarters (76%) of guide dog owners have illegally been refused service by businesses, including taxis, hotels, restaurants and shops. The overwhelming majority of respondents reported that these incidents negatively affected their social life, emotional wellbeing, and overall quality of life.

To tackle discrimination, Guide Dogs and the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) have developed an Equality Act ‘toolkit’ to provide information and guidance to guide dog owners in England, Scotland and Wales. This year, Guide Dogs launched ‘Open Doors’, their own campaign to further educate businesses and service providers about guide dog owners’ rights.

Kirstie Bower, Guide Dogs’ director of skills, information and support, said that the existing data on discrimination may be “the tip of the iceberg,” as many cases go unreported. She added: “Working with RNIB, we want to empower people with sight loss to take action against this illegal discrimination.”

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