Survey: 45% of Guide Dog Users in Japan Turned Away from Shops, Other Facilities

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A visually impaired person walks with a guide dog at Fuji Harness in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture.

About 45% of visually impaired people have been denied access to restaurants and other facilities while accompanied by a guide dog, according to a 2022 survey by the Japan Guide Dog Association.

The figure represents a 10-point rise from the previous year’s survey and is thought to be partly attributable to increased opportunities for people to go out due to vaccinations against COVID-19, among other factors.

The Law on Assistance Dogs for Physically Disabled Persons stipulates that guide dogs be accepted at various public facilities, such as restaurants and lodging establishments.

The association received responses from 218 guide dog users for the latest annual survey.

In 2022, 100 people, or 45% of the total respondents, were denied access to certain facilities while accompanied by an assistance dog. The survey logged a total of 196 refusals, with some respondents experiencing more than 10 such incidents in a single year. Of the 196 refusals, 92 occurred at restaurants, 25 at accommodation facilities and 24 at public transportation facilities.

In one case, a person who hoped to receive a vaccination at a medical facility was told by a doctor to visit a different medical institution as their institution did not allow guide dogs.

In the association’s 2019 survey, 63% of respondents experienced refusals. This figure fell to 41% in 2020 and 35% in 2021, likely due to the spread of the pandemic, which reduced opportunities for people to leave their homes. The 2022 figure represented the first increase in three years.

In cases in which a guide dog user reports a case of denied entry, local government officials will visit the establishment in question and provide guidance, such as by encouraging the staff to become familiar with the law.

“Some guide dog users say they take it personally when refused entrance due to being accompanied by their dog,” an official of the association said. “Denying a person entry when they’re with their dog is a form of discrimination based on disability. We’ll continue to raise awareness [of the issue] in cooperation with the government,”