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Blind student wins £1,000 after hotel refuses guide dog

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A Somerset hotelier has been ordered to pay £1,000 plus costs to a blind woman after refusing to sell her a room. Lionel Whitefield, who runs the Acorn Lodge hotel in Taunton, was ordered by a judge at Taunton County Court to pay compensation to student Nicky Cockburn for disability discrimination after he refused to allow a guide dog in his hotel.

Cockburn, 26, from Llandudno in North Wales, decided to take action against Whitefield after being refused by a total of three local hotels when trying to arrange accommodation for a trip to Taunton.

The first hotel Cockburn called turned her away because they thought her guide dog, a golden retriever called Vale, would fight with the hotel’s two border collies. She then called a bed and breakfast, but was refused accommodation again when the owner claimed Vale would trigger his wife’s asthma.

When Cockburn rang the eight-bedroom Acorn Lodge she explained that she was blind and needed to bring her guide dog with her. The hotel refused, saying it wouldn’t allow dogs of any kind, even guide dogs.

Cockburn said she couldn’t believe she had been refused three times in a row by hoteliers and decided to make a stand.’If more cases like mine get taken to court, hoteliers will become more aware of where they stand’, she said.

Cockburn settled out of court with the owner of the first hotel and decided not to take action against the second, out of sympathy for the owner’s wife.Businesses, including hotels and restaurants, have had to allow guide dogs on their premises since 1999, but cases such as Cockburn’s are thought likely to become more common in the run-up to the full implementation of the Disability Dis-crimination Act in October.

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