TOWN centre destination 360 Play say ‘they would never intentionally discriminate against anyone’ after a Guide Dog user says she was made to feel ‘like a leper’ by staff.
Kerry Hunt, who lost her sight four years ago due to illness, had gone to the play centre in the Kingfisher Shopping Centre from her Studley home with her two-year-old son Oscar and her Guide Dog Vanya.
“I don’t normally go into town on my own but with my parents on holiday and my husband at work I went with the intention of going to 360 Play,” said Kerry, a former railway signal designer who’s employer, Fenix Rail Systems, gave her a new role so they could retain her skills.
“I’m not very good with a white stick and find it much easier with Vanya but when I got there they turned me away because I had a dog.
“I found it really shocking and was so upset.
“I went to Costa for a sit down where I met with one of the staff, told her what had happened, and she agreed it was disgraceful and urged me to go back and speak to the manager.
“When I did this they said I could come in but would have to sit on my own, which I thought was isolating and made me feel like a leper, so I left.
“At no time did I get an apology.”
Lee Waters, operations director at 360 Play described Kerry’s account, as relayed by her sister Claire, as ‘factually incorrect’.
He said the receptionist at 360 Play was covering the position due to sickness and could not confidently say whether Vanya could enter the premises.
The manager was called and came to reception ‘as soon as she was able’.
“Upon arrival at reception the manager spoke to the lady and said she was more than welcome to come into the centre,” said Mr Waters.
“Dogs are attractive to children and in our environment could attract a large crowd of children as it was half term.
“Our manager suggested it may be a good idea to sit in a quieter area of the centre, not to ostracise the lady but to ensure the guide dog did not become overwhelmed and distracted from its important work.”
He added: “We would never intentionally discriminate against anyone.”
A Guide Dogs spokesperson said: “We are aware of the incident which Kerry experienced at 360 Play in Redditch, and are currently supporting her with this.
“Under the Equality Act 2010, service providers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled people can access services.
“This includes amending a ‘no dogs’ policy to allow guide dogs and other assistance dogs.
“Guide dogs are working animals, not pets, and their owners, like Kerry, rely on them for both independence and mobility.”