A blind woman has told how she was left ‘shaking’ after a staff member allegedly threw her out because she had her guide dog with her.
Lucy Edwards, 25, had been out at a London Fashion Week event with her fiancé on Monday, September 20 when the pair decided to eat out at Yo! Sushi’s Woodstock Street branch, west London.
The 25-year-old told MyLondon : “I know this sounds really sad in some ways, but my fiancé is completely sighted and we often have discussions together on what chains we like to eat in, because if I’ve got my guide dog with me, I do always get anxious.”
Lucy has faced discrimination before for her disability, and raises awareness about being disability issues on TikTok and Instagram.
She said: “When we first walked in, it seemed to be all fine. Ollie thought, ‘I think we’re going to be okay here’.”
The waiter showed the couple to a table with tall bar stools. Lucy explained that the stools would be challenging for her and her guide dog, who she has only been working with for around a month.
But as the pair requested to be moved to a lower table, Lucy said the waiter noticed her guide dog, and immediately “switched”.
“He was like, ‘Nope, dogs aren’t allowed’,” she said.
Far from being the first incident of its kind for Lucy, she said she gave the waiter the ‘benefit of the doubt’.
She recalled thinking: “He might not know what the jacket symbolises, right?”
Guide dogs wear special harnesses for mobility assistance, which distinguishes them from pet dogs.
Lucy explained calmly to the staff member that the reflective strips on her dog’s jacket show she is a guide dog.
“She’s my eyes, you know, I have to take her everywhere with me in order to get about,” she said.
“And he said, ‘No, no, no’. I don’t care what dog that is. You can’t come in.”
Lucy then began to film the incident on her phone. She shared the video, entitled ‘Ableism in Action’, to her TikTok page, where she has 1.7 million followers.
Denying someone entry for using a guide dog is illegal in the UK. Lucy said she then asked to speak to the manager, and requested an apology from them before leaving the restaurant.
She said: “I was still firm, but not shouting. But I was shaking. You know, I haven’t really stood up to anyone like that before. But I feel like me and Ollie, because we’ve been together for eight years, we had a kind of out of body experience.
“I had him, and I had the security of him, to be able to speak my voice because I think if I was alone, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Lucy continued: “I owe it to people who have maybe just got a guide dog for the first time and are worried about going out. How must they feel?”.
She explained that in the past, events like this have made her feel “sick to her stomach”.
“I’d cry. I’d go home. And I wouldn’t go out for another month,” she said.
“This is what this does to people. This discrimination – not just the disabled community – but we need to think about other marginalised groups here.
“This is basically saying because of who I am, I can’t access something. And that is really serious.
“I don’t think people still know it goes on.”
A Yo! spokesperson said: “We are disappointed and sorry about the experience that Lucy Edwards had at our Bond Street restaurant. One of our colleagues made a mistake, and of course guide dogs are welcome in all of our restaurants.
“Creating an inclusive environment for all of our customers and team is important to us and this incident does not reflect our values.
“We are undertaking a thorough review to ensure that YO!’s values are reflected in all interactions and practices across our business, so none of our guests are made to feel this way in future.
“We have contacted Lucy directly to apologise for her experience and invite her contribution into building awareness and shaping our ongoing training processes.”