Shropshire Star

Blind British ski champion banned from taking his guide dog into Sainsbury’s

The supermarket chain is the British Paralympic team sponsor.

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British Paralympic skiing champion John Dickinson-Lilley with his guide dog Brett

A British Paralympic skiing champion has been left “shaken” and “humiliated” after he was banned from taking his guide dog into a Sainsbury’s store minutes from the supermarket chain’s head office.

John Dickinson-Lilley, who is registered blind and uses his guide dog Brett to get around, told the Press Association it was the second time he has been illegally barred by staff from entering the same store with his dog.

Sainsbury’s has sponsored the British Paralympic team since 2012 but Mr Dickinson-Lilley, who is a double British and European ski champion, questioned the business’s commitment to raising disabled rights among staff.

John Dickinson Lilley, British paralympic ski champion
John Dickinson-Lilley, a British Paralympic ski champion, was refused entry to Sainsbury’s (John Dickinson-Lilley/PA)

He said: “I had finished work and because it was a really nice day, Brett fancied a walk because we’d been indoors all day.

“We stopped at the Sainsbury’s on Southampton Row (in Holborn, central London) to get some wine to enjoy the weather.

“As soon as I walked in, the security guard said ‘no, no, no’.

“I said ‘what?’

“He said, ‘You know what. No dogs allowed’.

“I asked to get the manager, but he refused.

“Eventually a supervisor wrote my name and details on a slip and mumbled an apology. I complained to Sainsbury’s but have not yet had a reply.”

Following the incident, Mr Dickinson-Lilley, who works in communications and has 4% of his vision, said: “It left me shaken.

“I’m senior in my profession. I’ve done TV work and am very confident.

“Even having that confidence, every time it happens it knocks me and left me shaking.

“I was knackered. I just wanted to get a bottle of wine and do something normal.”

All businesses are required under the Equality Act to allow guide dogs onto their premises, unless there are extreme circumstances.

John Dickinson-Lilley outside Sainsbury’s Local  in Holborn, central London
John Dickinson-Lilley outside Sainsbury’s Local in Holborn, central London (Aaron Chown/PA)

Mr Dickinson-Lilley, who retired from skiing competitively last year, said he would now be taking Sainsbury’s to court, saying it was the second time he was refused at the same store, and followed a similar incident at the retailer’s Cannon Street branch.

He called on the company to improve training, adding: “The idea that you can walk into a shop and be humiliated like that in 2019 is outrageous.

“There’s clearly something that’s not working in their business. They know they can’t sell booze, knifes and razors to children, but yet they don’t know that I’m allowed in with my dog. They’re not prioritising disabled people.”

Sainsbury’s has been sponsoring the British Paralympic team since 2012, with the deal running until 2020.

Two years ago, chief executive Mike Coupe, when discussing Sainsbury’s sponsorship, said: “Inclusivity, for both our colleagues and our customers, is at the heart of Sainsbury’s values, which is why we are so keen to continue to support Paralympics GB and help change perceptions of what it means to have a disability. “

Mr Dickinson-Lilley, however, questioned the retailer’s commitment. He said: “Sainsbury’s made quite a big thing of their involvement in sport.

“If you put yourself on the front line by saying ‘hey, we’re sponsoring the Paralympics’, you have to be a leader in that field.”

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “We have apologised to John for his experience and reassured him assistance dogs are welcome in all our stores and petrol stations.”

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