The supermarket was given the accolade by hearing dog users, who were recently surveyed on their access experiences on the UK high street.
70% of those surveyed reported being denied access to businesses, with 40% of those reporting being turned away on two or three separate occasions. The most common reasons given include hygiene reasons and religious and cultural beliefs.
Joyce Patterson from Yorkshire started to go deaf in her early twenties, but it gradually got worse. Tests were inconclusive, but it was most probably hereditary nerve deafness. She nominated Sainsbury’s Ripon, and said:
I always felt lonely, and as though I was missing out with family and friends. I just wasn’t accepted on the same level as everyone else. Since I got my hearing dog Toby, people are kinder and try harder to include me. He breaks the ice, and I can talk to everyone about how he helps me and how wonderful he is. I really do rely on him completely, and we have such a wonderful bond.
Sainsbury’s Ripon are very knowledgeable regarding the Equality Act 2010, and I am accepted into the store wholeheartedly. The staff know Toby, and many of them make a point of asking to say hello to him. If my trolley is heavy the staff are very willing to push it to my car as the car park is on a slope and not easy to manage especially with having Toby as well.
If everywhere was like Sainsbury’s in their attitude, it would be much easier and pleasant for assistance dog recipients.
Michele Jennings CEO of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People said:
We are concerned that deaf people with hearing dogs are not being allowed access to services on the UK high street, as the Equality Act 2010 states that business owners cannot treat disabled people less favourably if they are accompanied by an assistance dog.
Deafness is an invisible disability that causes isolation and social exclusion, so being denied entry to a public place is upsetting and degrading. We would like to thank places like Sainsburys in Ripon, who go above and beyond to ensure hearing dog recipients are welcome, and we hope their good practice will inspire others.
Hearing dogs assist deaf people by alerting to important sounds such as the fire alarm and doorbell, and allow their deaf recipient to live an independent life. Each dog completes a rigorous 18 month training programme, in which they are trained to only toilet on command, lie quietly on the floor in a restaurant or café, and not to wander freely around public premises.
For more information on the charity’s ‘Who Lets the Dogs In?’ campaign, visit: hearingdogs.org.uk/access