Photo/IllutrationGuide dogs, service dogs and hearing dogs are promoted at an event in Osaka’s Kita Ward. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Sixty percent of blind people who use guide dogs were refused entry to restaurants and other public places, despite a law enacted in April 2016 that bans such discriminatory action, a survey showed.

“It might be easier for restaurants and other facilities to discriminate against disabled people with assistance dogs because they can use the excuse, ‘No dogs allowed,’” said Takao Shioya, head of Eye Mate, an association that trains guide dogs.

Eye Mate conducted the survey in February and March on 248 blind people who use guide dogs trained by the association.

It asked them if they suffered any discriminatory treatment between April 2016, when the law took into effect, and February this year.

The survey showed 75 blind people, or 60 percent of the 121 respondents, said they had experienced discrimination during that period.

Allowed to give multiple examples, 57 respondents said they were refused entry to restaurants, 10 were denied entry at commercial facilities such as supermarkets, nine could not enter or stay at accommodation facilities, and nine were rejected by taxi drivers.

A female employee in her 30s who lives in the Tokyo metropolitan area said a restaurant refused her entry because “there are customers who don’t like dogs.”

A homemaker in her 70s from Shizuoka Prefecture said she was told that dogs were prohibited inside a restaurant, so staff escorted her and her guide dog to a terrace seat despite the winter chill.

A man in his 50s from Saitama Prefecture said he was denied entry to a temple after being told, “Even if it’s a guide dog, a dog is a dog.”

The law prohibits business operators in the private sector from discriminating against people because of their disabilities. It clearly states that refusing services for people because of their assistance dogs is discriminatory and unjust. However, there are no penalties for violations.

Dogs are used to help people with other disabilities, and they, too, say they are being discriminated against.

For example, eight members of a hearing dog users association said they have been experienced discrimination, according to the survey by the group.

The survey reflected a similar trend in discriminatory practices, with refusal to allow entry to restaurants as the most common problem. Some respondents were even turned away at convenience stores and hospitals.

Hearing dogs alert the users to important sounds, such as alarms or doorbells.

Various breeds are used as hearing dogs, and business operators might not understand the role played by the animals because deaf and hearing-impaired people may not appear to be disabled.

“We dress our hearing dogs in orange clothes with certifications,” said Moto Arima, chairwoman of the hearing dog association. “However, there are small breeds, such as Chihuahua, so many of the hearing dogs often go unrecognized as such.”

Although figures were not available, reports show that disabled people who use service dogs for mobility have been rejected at hospitals and other facilities.

“Unfortunately, discrimination has not decreased even after the anti-discrimination law took effect,” said Tomoko Takayanagi, a director of the Japan Service Dog Association.

As of May 1, 966 guide dogs, 73 hearing dogs and 70 service dogs were actively supporting disabled people, according to Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Many assistance dog users are expected to visit Japan when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Paralympics.

“More awareness among business operators is required,” Arima said. “Discriminatory treatment against disabled people will never decrease unless society matures about the circumstances surrounding assistance dogs.”