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Blind woman 'humiliated' after being told to leave Italian restaurant

A BLIND musician says she was shocked and humiliated when she and her guide dog were asked to leave an Italian restaurant.

Abi Baker and her guide dog Bliss were ask to leave Punto Italian restaurant in Askew Road.

A BLIND musician says she was shocked and humiliated when she and her guide dog were asked to leave an Italian restaurant.

Abi Baker and her boyfriend were asked to quit Punto, in Askew Road, Shepherd’s Bush, after they’d been taken to a seat on Saturday, May 25.

Miss Baker, 34, who lost her sight as a baby, and is able to travel independently with the help of Bliss, her six-year-old retriever dog, said that when she complained that the restaurant was breaking the law, the waiter refused to believe her.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act, guide dogs are exempt from rules that restrict animals in pubs and restaurants.

She said: "My boyfriend and I go out with friends a lot and it has happened before. Most people are really welcoming, but there have been the odd few places that have done the same, but we politely point out they’re breaking the law.

“I think there are a lot of guide dog owners who don’t know the law or who aren’t strong enough and would accept it and walk out quietly. I think people like me who are blind should be fighting our corner. That behaviour was unacceptable."

Punto manager Ilir Ponari said the incident took place a week before new management took over.

He said: "We are under new management and we don’t know anything about this incident. We have all new staff. We’re shocked and unhappy to hear of it and we don’t have any policy against guide dogs in the restaurant. They are always welcome in this restaurant."

Miss Baker, a freelance pianist and violinist, is a member of British Paraorchestra and performed at London’s Paralympics closing ceremony last year. She lives in a specially adapted block of flats in Rylett Road with about 50 blind neighbours, and said Bliss had given her a new-found independence.

She added: "I used to use a cane but I prefer my dog because it is more liberating. I’m quite a fast walker so Bliss allows me to walk at a more comfortable speed without bumping into a lamppost. And it’s important for me to get out. Restaurants need to be encouraged to learn about what they need to do right."

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