Here at Bamboo, we work with the charity sector because it’s the only sector we could be genuinely passionate about. With that comes a certain philanthropic joie de vivre, so every so often we choose a new charity and throw our fundraising might behind it.
Currently one of our Directors, Graham, is in training for a marathon tandem bike ride from Lands End to John O’Groats. Graham is registered blind, so the tandem is more necessity than flair. He will be doing this to raise funds for Guide Dogs for the Blind, who’s work we’ve seen the very real impact of in his new Guide Dog – Ricky (you can check out the lovable rogue on our About Us page).
Here in his own words, Graham talks about an example of the impact the charity has had on his life:
Today I was reminded (as Ricky – my guide dog – reminds me every day) why The Guide Dogs Association for the Blind is such an amazing charity, the difference they make to people’s lives and the reason you should donate literally all of your money to our epic bike ride.
The other week I went to [restaurant name deleted[ for a business lunch and they refused to allow me in because I had Ricky with me, and what followed was a conversation with the Restaurant Manager that went a little something like this:
Me: He’s a Guide Dog.
Restaurant Manager: I understand that, but you can’t bring him in here.
Me: He’s my Guide Dog, I need to have him with me and I have a legal right to bring him in here.
RM: We cannot have dogs in this restaurant, there is fresh food here and if other customers see a dog in here, they won’t eat here.
Me: What? This isn’t a case of you being able to pick and choose, you can’t legally refuse to let me come in here with him. Look, I have some additional information.
[At this point I tried to show her a small card that explains the laws around assistance dogs – she didn’t want to look at it.]
Me: I just want to make sure that I’m getting this across properly, he’s not my pet dog, he’s a Guide Dog.
RM: Well where is the person?
Me: What person?
RM: The person that he is a guide for?
Me: He’s my Guide Dog.
RM: Well, you can see.
Me: Look, there are two ways this can go now. Either you seat us at a table and we forget that this situation ever happened, or I’m going to seek legal assistance on taking this matter further.
RM: I don’t know what to say, you will have to leave because we can’t have dogs in the restaurant.
Me: Don’t apologise, it’s not me that’s going to end up on the sharp end of this. I really would read up on the law on Guide Dogs if I were you.
[Then we left the restaurant]
Now, I’m (sometimes) a reasonable man and I wouldn’t profess to know the ins and outs of every law in this land. Granted, I would probably commit to knowing at least the laws around my obligations as a restaurateur if I were one, by that is by the by. What I’m trying to say is that I realise that some people just don’t know the laws and are acting on a legitimately held view that you can’t have dogs tear arsing around a restaurant – I mean it’s lunacy that they don’t know the laws, but I realise that they might not. That is why my next port of call was to contact the wonderful and inimitable Dave Kent of the Guide Dog’s London Engagement Team (you may know Dave from the Guide Dogs TV adverts – check it out here – if it doesn’t make you sob, you’re heartless) who took the case on for me and contacted the restaurant. Now I wasn’t party to that phone call, but I understand that it went a little something like this:
Dave: [Introduces himself] I understand that one of our Guide Dog owners visited your restaurant last Wednesday and you refused him service.
RM: I explained to him that we can’t have dogs in the restaurant
Dave: You’re not legally allowed to refuse someone entry because they have an assistance dog
RM: It’s our restaurant, we’ll refuse service to whoever we like
Dave: Do you have no respect for the dignity of disabled people
[RM hangs up the phone]
It seemed like we had hit an immovable wall and I thought it would flounder there, but fortunately for me Dave is an unstoppable man and he was quick to contact the local constabulary, who in turn obliged us with a visit to the restaurant in question, whose Restaurant Manager continued to be belligerent, who was then told that she would be prosecuted for a disability hate crime. The restaurant owner quickly appeared, admonished his staff and agreed to send a written apology and furnish me with a free meal (I’m still in two minds about whether to accept the latter, as I would be wary of it’s potential spittle content).
Being blind erodes my freedom and independence, the wonderful people at Guide Dogs gave me Ricky and he has changed my life. But Guide Dogs for the Blind realise that things don’t stop there, there will always be people who hold their own narrow thinking in higher esteem than respect for other people’s dignity.
Guide Dogs didn’t just give me a Ricky, they also gave me a Dave.