Tuesday 23 July 2019

'No blind person should have to put up with this' - Dublin hotel tells Canadian paralympian it can't accommodate guide dog

Eamonn and Victoria Nolan with Alan
Eamonn and Victoria Nolan with Alan
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A Canadian paralympian who went blind after giving birth to her second child has spoken of her "bitter disappointment" after a Dublin hotel said it could not accommodate a guide dog.

Victoria Nolan regularly travels to Ireland with her husband Eamonn Nolan and booked three nights in the capital for a family holiday at the end of June.

Mr Nolan contacted Dublin Central Suites on Gardiner Street to notify them that his wife is visually impaired and would be travelling with her guide dog, Alan.

The hotel replied saying that following a discussion with management, "unfortunately we cannot accept guide dogs in the hotel as per hotel policy, dogs are not permitted in the property."

Victoria Nolan with her guide dog Alan
Victoria Nolan with her guide dog Alan

The couple said in all their years coming to Ireland, they have never experienced a hotel refusing to allow a guide dog to stay.

"No blind person should ever have to put up with this," Mr Nolan told Independent.ie.

"We decided to spend three nights in Dublin to show our children some of the main attractions. Everything was going great and we found one that was convenient and within our budget. They told us a room was available and gave us a fair rate and when I explained to the reservations agent at the hotel that my wife is blind, this is where things went wrong.

"When Vicky went blind we had two children in diapers and it was a nightmare. Fortunately, a guide dog helped give Vicky some independence, mobility, and dignity. Suddenly she could travel freely and navigate her way through Toronto.

"We were deeply disappointed and upset to discover that a hotel couldn't cater for her disability. Alan is extremely experienced and well-trained. I guarantee he is better behaved than a lot of the human hotel guests!"

Mrs Nolan, a medal-winning paralympic rower, has previously had negative experiences with taxis refusing to allow her to travel in Canada.

She appeared on CBC Toronto after an UberAssist driver locked his car and drove off when he realised she had a dog with her.

Mr Nolan said his family have always felt extremely welcome in Ireland but said it's devastating for his wife when setbacks like this happen.

"We're not looking for sympathy but when Vicky first went blind she would barely leave the house, let alone go travelling the world. Usually when we go into restaurants or other places we are made feel very welcome, but when someone says no it is devastating... it's not easy."

When contacted for comment, Dublin Central Suites said there was a "misunderstanding" and "incorrect information was given to Mr Nolan".

"We can confirm that guide dogs are an exception to our no pet policy. Initially due to a misunderstanding between the reception staff and management, incorrect information was given to Mr Nolan for which we have already apologised.

"We are happy to accommodate their needs in any way we can."

Mr Nolan said he now intends to book somewhere else as "this kind of misunderstanding shouldn't be happening in 2019".

Under the Equal Status Acts, hotels are prohibited from discriminating against persons with disabilities.

Hotel and guesthouse proprietors must provide "reasonable accommodation" when they facilitate guide dogs and assistance dogs on their premises while it is assisting its owner.

Similarly, pubs, restaurants and any food businesses must also accommodate guide dogs.

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