Ikea blind to guide dog rules
A blind woman who was told she could not enter Adelaide's Ikea store with her guide dog said she felt like a "criminal" as she stood outside for 15 minutes.
Annette Holden, 59, of Fulham Gardens, said she showed her Royal Society for the Blind card to staff at the entrance on Sunday about 11am.
But she was initially not allowed to enter with guide dog Molly, who was wearing an embossed harness and registration tag.
Ms Holden said the incident caused her and Molly extreme embarrassment and distress. A duty manager eventually said Ms Holden and Molly could enter after members of the public intervened.
One person even showed staff legislation showing it is against the law to deny entry to a blind, deaf or otherwise disabled person with an assistance dog.
"I chose not to enter the store after I had been hanging around like a criminal for 15 minutes," Ms Holden told The Advertiser.
The retail giant has publicly apologised to Ms Holden, saying in a statement: "Ikea Australia apologises for any offence caused to Annette Holden as a result of her experience visiting Ikea Adelaide".
Ms Holden said a customer service representative called her to explain the staff did not understand the situation and needed more training on the issue.
"He said it was part of training they had done about therapy dogs, and confusion with staff between service dogs and therapy dogs," Ms Holden said.
An Ikea spokesman told The Advertiser: "In the case of therapy dogs or therapy animals, the customer will be asked to produce documentation to show the animal is licensed. In this instance a co-worker requested this documentation from the owner of a service dog".
Ms Holden said she did not want to attack Ikea, but rather hoped to create awareness of people living without sight.
"It's more a message of awareness to all businesses that, please, this causes such distress and harm and embarrassment to the dogs as well as the humans," she said.
"(Guide dogs) are highly sensitive and highly trained to respond to our every emotion and move, and if they're being denied entry they think they've done something wrong." Royal Society for the Blind spokesman Darrin Johnson said such incidents could be avoided if a national accreditation framework for assistance dogs was set up.
"IKEA's management are very supportive of people with vision loss and guide dogs … but despite this they will always get staff who get it wrong," he said.
"If Annette had been able to present formal, government-issued accreditation that confirmed the legal access of the dog, then I suspect the staff member may have made a different decision".
Originally published as Ikea blind to guide dog rules