Case closed

In my last post,
The dark side of guide dog ownership
I wrote about what a horrible experience i had at Mollys restaurant in Ballymoney.

I contacted the equality commission yesterday and within a couple of hours, they rang me back. They told me that i should try and contact the restaurant owners first before pursuing the case. They said they could not legally represent me but if i wanted to, i could apply to them if the matter was not resolved. I said i didn’t want to go to courte if i didn’t have to so they sent me a guide for restaurants detailing a persons rights withan assistance dog. They advised me to send that to them in an email, and to explain that under the disability discrimination act, it was illegal to refuse a person with a guide dog or offer them a lower service. So i reluctantly sent the guide and a letter.

I got a phone call last night from the owners wife at the restaurant. They apologised to me and said that once we left they felt horrible. They explained that they had learnt a valuable lesson. They have sent me out some vouchers. I am not going to go any further as that would just be petty. I know they apologised on the night and that maybe i should have called them after rather than going to the equality commission, but i just felt so crushed that night that i didn’t particularly want to resolve it then because i just felt so disheartened.

I must say a weight has been lifted as i do not like causing bad feelings or complaining for the sake of complaining. At least it had a good outcome as it could have gone the other way.

I just hope i never experience something like that again. Sometimes all it takes is a little reminder about the law. I don’t want to make a habbit of this, so let’s hope i don’t have to.

I guess alls well that ends well.

Thank you everybody for all your support through facebook etc. I had never experienced it before so i was very confused as to if i was doing the right thing or not.

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The Dark Side Of Guide Dog Ownership

I still can’t fathm why this post even happened, and as i go through it in my head, it still baffles me. I keep reliving the whole thing in my head. Anyway, i hope you’re comfy as this is a long one.

On Thursday night i had an event i wanted to go on in Ballymoney. I was staying with my friend in Holywood and i had suggested a few days earlier that i could ring and find out if she could come. All was okay on that score, so we got the train down from Belfast. Ballymoney is about 20 minutes away from Ballymena.

The weather had been awful all day so we decided to leave earlier and get some food when we got there. I asked on facebook if anyone knew anywhere nice to eat in Ballymoney and a restaurant called Mollys was recommended to us.

When we got there, a nice lady called Nolene helped us over the bridge at Ballymoney station. Boy but that’s a long trek. We really appreciated it. We asked if we could walk to Mollys from the station and my friend thought i was expecting her to do it but i would never do that. Turns out the restaurant was only about 5 or 10 minutes up the street, so Nolne offered to walk us up there. Again it was really appreciated. Unfortunately things started to get ugly when we got to Mollys.

When we walked in, the woman serving shouted over to the owner that there were two guide dogs. We thought this was grand, but then she asked if we could tie the dogs up in the alley outside. I jumped straight in and said that they were guide dogs and they were clean. She then went on that because they served food they couldn’t let us in. She then said that they had never encountered a guide dog so weren’t familiar with the law. So the owner was off to ring the counscil (this was at a quarter to 6, so no chance of anyone being at the counsil). When we asked if they would read the menu, they wanted poor Nolene to read it as she was still with us. She didn’t mind of course, but we told her to go on and thanked her emmensely. She even said that guide dogs were allowed in restaurants but they weren’t having any of it. They said it would take half an hour to read the menu and started asking Nolene what we liked. By this stage i certainly was feeling very rushed and stressed as we still hadn’t been seated. So i asked for a stew. You’d have thought i asked for some really strange exottic dish, as they said that that would be something only a caffe would do and that a bar/restaurant wouldn’t. They then said some of the things that were on the menu but were still very vague. So i said i would like a sausage supper with beans. They hesitated before agreeing to make it for us, commenting that they only do that really for kids. This made me feel very very awkward in deed and that i was just being picky which i honestly wasn’t. Before all this, the woman had said that shecould put us in the back so they wouldn’t get complaints, and it wasn’t them who made the rules. So eventually we wer seated away from everybody else in a rom which seemed to have quite a few tables, but it was beside the toilets.

When we were shown our table, the owner asked if we had someone meeting us afterwards. I told him that we would order a taxi after we had finished. The taxi was ordered there and then for 7 o’clock by the owner. I hadn’t even sat down since i was getting Ushi’s harness off. By this stage, both of us were feeling very humiliated. I especially felt bad for my friend coming all the way from holywood, only to be nearly refused from a restaurant.

The owner explained to us while we were waiting for our food that in all his 10 years of having a restaurant, he’d never encountered the “issue” of a guide dog before so wanted to make sure he knew the law. He then said he would be liable if anything happened and a dog bit someone. Turns out when he was “phoning the counscil”, he was actually phoning his wife to look up the law on Google probably. He was very apologettic after, and i explained that it shouldn’t happen again. He said we were welcome any time. It was too little too late.

When our food came and i asked for the salt, it was practically thrust in to my hand. And i got cocktail sausages. We were then left to eat alone. By this stage, i couldn’t really enjoy my meal because of what had happened. I just felt so low and as if we shouldn’t be there. We tried to make the most of our meals though, even though nobody even came in to the room to sit with us. The only time people came in was to go to the toilets.

When we had finished our meals, and it was time to pay, the staff were very, very over the top with talking to the dogs, and how lovely they were and all. The apologies still kept coming too. When our taxi came, they parted with an “sorry again about what happened earlier-it won’t happen again”. Boy were we glad to get out of there. My friend said it was like stepping back in time, which it was.

I keep going over the events in my head and i keep wondering was it because the dogs were wet that they were being so fussy? We couldn’t control the weather and we were all wet. And i wonder was i given cocktail sausages so that i wouldn’t have to cut anything up? I’m still very shaken up by the whole thing. Never in my 4 years of owning Ushi have i ever been refused, or had the slightest hint of a refusal thrown my way. All my friend and i wanted to do was to have a nice meal, just like everyone else. We’ll not be going back there again, i can tell you.

So what happens now? Well i have to find a way of writing out what happened more formally and sending it to the equality commission, the counscil and guide dogs. I’m not sure i want to take it to courte, but if that’s what needs to happen, then so be it. I’m hoping that the equality commission will just make them aware of the law and that they know in future. When it’s written down, it seems like i’m making a mountain out of a mole hill :(. I’m very confused.

Thanks to all the comments supporting me on facebook and telling me that i’m not being silly reporting it. I just hope it never happens again.

Thank you for sticking with me-i told you it was a long one :). I needed to get it written down though. My confidence has certainly been knocked over this whole thing.

I just hope the restaurant learn from this case. I know i certainly have.


Their Masters Voice Concert

On Wednesday night, i was at a concert run by a choir called “Their Masters Voice”. This was a choir made up of guide dog owners, staff and volunteers. It was formed about 6 or so months ag. It was run by one of the habilitation specialists who i part of the charity called
lind children uk
Which was formally the national blind childrens society. Blind children UK are now part of the guide dogs organisation working as blind children UK. One of the rehabilitation workers from guide dogs thought the choir would be a great idea because it’s 30 years since guide dogs came to Northern Irelnd.

The concert was being held in the
La mon hotel
Which is a fabulous hotel. It is where the guide dogs classes take place if the client chooses to do residential training. The staff are ever so helpful and nothing is too much trouble.

The concert was fantastic and it was so good to have everyone together. All of the choir pieces were accompanied by a young man who is the youngist guide dog owner in Northern Ireland and the first to have a guide dog in a main stream secondary school which is just brilliant. There was also a band called “Big band worier Swing band” who wre brilliant too. The band was made up of teachers fromone of the education and library boardsi think

There was also a raffle on the night which was massive. A lot of businesses were so generous.

I would like to say well done to all who took part in the choir. It was a brilliant night.

Those of us who had traveled quite a way up decided to stay over that night. It brought back so many memories for me. I had trained there with Ushi and i knew exactly where i was. It felt like being at home in a way. I was slightly worried about Ushi spending, but thankfully there was gravel as well as the pen set up. Ushi wouldn’t use the pen at all bt she did use the stones which was a relief.

I would like to thank the La mon for their hospitality and great service as usual. And thanks again to Guide dogs again for organising such a great choir. It was a fantastic way to celebrate 30 years of guide dogs being in Northern Ireland.