On Monday 3 October, Caroline Kao (25) and family friend Monika Johansen (62) wanted to have lunch together at the Sumo restaurant in Solli Plas, Oslo.
Johansson has been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an eye disease, and is visually impaired. The 62-year-old depends on her furry friend Malo – an eight-year-old Labrador retriever.
However, upon entering the doors of the restaurant, the friends were stopped by the staff. Unfortunately, a young lady informed us that dogs are not allowed inside the house.
Gao and Johansen chose to sit in the outdoor dining area.
– I tell the young lady that she really does not have permission to refuse to approach me with a guide dog. I have a card from Nao to prove it and she’ll be happy to read it, explains Johansson.
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The 62-year-old makes it clear to Dagbladet that he doesn’t want to “take over” the restaurant or the staff, but to appear in the media to illuminate and inform:
– I am very modest in this situation, no need to arrest or criticize – but it is very important for us who rely on a guide dog.
Johansson notes what she believes is apparently rooted in inadequate training for new employees. And according to the 62-year-old, this applies not only to restaurants but also to grocery stores, hotels and the taxi industry.
– Poor information is provided during employee training. Guide dog users are given a card from Now, where the Norwegian Food Safety Authority has written paragraphs dealing with the guide dog owner’s rights.
The regulations, which Johansen refers to, state that “service dogs may be brought in areas that are normally accessible to customers.” It is determined in the Food Hygiene Rules”.
After about ten minutes in the outdoor seating, the waiter returned with a profuse apology.
– He said he had spoken to his boss and was very sorry for denying us entry. He added that we felt very welcome inside, Johansen says, and makes it clear that the waiter is not to blame for the incident.
The 62-year-old, from Oscar, was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa 20 years ago and has had guide dog Mallow for six years. Nevertheless, she considers herself lucky that she has residual vision.
– I am not yet completely blind, so I may have a more independent daily life than others. I find it much easier to get around Oslo with Caroline, who is known on the streets.
Shared on social media
After visiting a restaurant in Solly Place, Caroline Kao decided to share the unfortunate experience on TikTok.
– Guide dogs are often mistaken for a “normal dog”. Knowledge, training and good management – that’s what it’s all about, Kao tells Talkbladet.
The 25-year-old was unsure for a long time whether she should actually post the video, but ultimately chose to post it to spread important information.
– Such ignorance makes the daily life of the blind and partially blind more difficult than it needs to be. There are many young people who work in the service industry, and that’s who I meet through TikTok. Cao says that if you are aware of the law, you will avoid ending up in such situations, adding:
– Such ignorance contributes to the stigmatization and marginalization of certain groups in society.
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Jan Abrahamsen, general manager of Sumo Solli Plass, informed Dagbladet of the incident and indicated that all guide dogs are welcome.
– We shouldn’t have any problems with guide dogs. I spoke to the waitress and she says she doesn’t know which rules apply. She went up to the manager, who was sitting on the floor above, and Abrahamsen explained that guide dogs were allowed.
– Was this information provided during staff training?
– Yes, it does. But here someone had to ask their manager, so my answer to that is clearly not a hundred percent yes, the general manager admits.
Abrahamsen would like to inform you that they always have a shift manager on duty and they have the necessary knowledge.
– Are you going to communicate more clearly to all employees?
– Of course we will take it into consideration. We’ll go around with all the staff and send a joint message so everyone gets it.
– The industry needs to take it seriously
Per Inge Bjergnes, secretary general of the Norwegian Federation for the Blind, tells Talkblade that unfortunately, they continue to receive reports of incidents similar to those experienced by Johansen and Gao.
– It is rarely done with ill will, but it is about the lack of knowledge of employees – which leads to bad situations. The general secretary says you enjoy going out and then you have to argue that you should be allowed.
– Can the Norwegian Association for the Blind do anything to clarify the rules?
– We try. We continue to campaign to highlight the rights of guide dog users. It’s the kind of informational work that you don’t finish. We try to do our best, but we depend on the industry and take this seriously and train new staff. Bjergnes says they should be aware of the rules decided by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.
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