Belfast Telegraph

Blind man wins payout after snub

A blind man who was turned away from a restaurant because he was with his guide dog has received £1,250.

James Cosgrove, 51, was left embarrassed and upset after being told to tie the dog up outside or else order a takeaway from the Bangla Indian Restaurant in Bangor, Co Down.

He said: "I felt terrible being denied admission in front of other people.

"Even though my friend explained what the law is, it made no difference."

The restaurant said it had a strict no dogs policy and management did not accept that Imogen - a golden retriever type dog - was not a pet, or that refusing the pair access was unlawful discrimination.

The payment was made after a legal action, taken with the help of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, was settled.

Mr Cosgrove, from Newtownards, Co Down, said he hoped lessons would be learned from his negative experience.

"Because I was able to take my case with the help of the Equality Commission, the owner of the restaurant has apologised and agreed to look at changes to the restaurant's policies so that this doesn't happen to someone else, and that's really what I want," he said.

The owner of the Bangla Restaurant also paid Mr Cosgrove's legal costs and agreed to liaise with the Equality Commission to ensure their policies, practices and procedures conformed with the current disability legislation.

Mary Kitson, senior legal officer with the Equality Commission, said disability discrimination was the reason for most of the complaints to her office.

She said: "This is a straightforward case in which lack of knowledge of the law led to unlawful discrimination taking place.

"Disability discrimination is, sadly, more common than people might think - our legal team gets more calls every year about disability discrimination than any other equality ground.

"The Bangla restaurant representatives will be meeting with our advice and compliance staff, who will help them make sure that their policies are compliant with the law and give them guidance on how to make their business more welcoming to people with disabilities."

Meanwhile, Andrew Murdock, policy and engagement manager with Guide Dogs Northern Ireland, welcomed the settlement.

Mr Murdock said: "Looking forward to an evening out, only to be turned away at the door because your guide dog is not welcome, is the humiliating experience that many guide dog owners like Jim face all too often.

"The law is clear on this and we welcome this settlement and hope it will raise awareness of this issue."

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