Ellen Fraser-Barbour with her disability dog Inka. Picture: AAP Image/Brenton Edwards
Ellen Fraser-Barbour with her disability dog Inka. Picture: AAP Image/Brenton Edwards

Restaurant's big apology after barring guide dog

A Gouger St eatery owner is offering free meals to guide dog owners as an apology for a "stupid" mistake by its staff for denying entry to a woman with a registered assistance canine.

Ellen Fraser-Barbour, who suffers from vision and hearing impairments, was so upset at being turned away on Sunday night, she lodged a complaint to both the Human Rights Commission and SA police.

Ms Fraser-Barbour, of Clarence Park, says staff at Little NNQ would not listen to her pleas that Inka was her assistance dog.

"I kept explaining to the server that it's illegal but they kept saying 'no, it's a dog'," she told The Advertiser.

"And then a second staff member backed him ... in the end I had to give up and left."

NNQ group owner Jennifer Crawford said the incident was a "stupid, honest mistake" by an inexperienced supervisor in his first managerial shift and would not happen again.

She acknowledged the restaurant had broken the law but said it was not deliberate discrimination because the supervisor was not aware of his legal requirements.

"We've had service dogs in before in every restaurant we've even run," she said.

Ms Crawford told The Advertiser that the restaurant and the manager had both made donations to Guide Dogs SA and they would offer free meals to guide-dog owners throughout next month.

Ellen Fraser-Barbour with her disability dog Inka, Tuesday, January 29, 2019. Ellen was denied entry to Little NNQ on Saturday night because she had Inka with her. Picture: AAP Image/Brenton Edwards
Ellen Fraser-Barbour with her disability dog Inka, Tuesday, January 29, 2019. Ellen was denied entry to Little NNQ on Saturday night because she had Inka with her. Picture: AAP Image/Brenton Edwards

Ms Fraser-Barbour, a PhD student at Flinders University, said she was often discriminated against her because of her assistance dog.

"I'm not out to get NNQ personally, but I really want people to realise this is a regular occurrence and it happens a lot," she said.

"People don't understand their legal requirements to accept assistance dogs or feel they can get away with it.

"I've had my first guide dog for six months now and have already lodged two human rights complaints but it's such a tiring process.

"They don't act as a deterrent to businesses because the onus is on me to report every single incident - a lifetime of complaints."

Equal Opportunity Commissioner Niki Vincent said she received a small number of complaints of this nature.

But she noted an increase in the number of people with a disability asking about access for their animals.

"Speaking generally, it's unlawful under the Equal Opportunity Act for restaurants and other service providers to discriminate against a person with disability by refusing access or service because the person possesses or is accompanied by an accredited assistance animal," she said.

It is an offence under the Dog and Cat Management Act to refuse access to a person with a disability with an assistance dog.