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Disabled woman in tears as 'rude' workers fail to accept assistance dog

Emma Carmichael with dog Theo <i>(Image: Colin Mearns)</i>
Emma Carmichael with dog Theo (Image: Colin Mearns)

A disabled woman was left “in tears” claiming rude workers often refuse to acknowledge her assistance dog.

Emma Carmichael, who has autism, suffers from anxiety and agoraphobia meaning she struggles to leave her home.

The 28-year-old, from Paisley, relies on Theo to help her cope with panic attacks when she does venture out - but claims they are often met with discrimination.

She told the Glasgow Times she is used to feeling frustrated as many public establishments fail to treat the seven-year-old basset beagle cross as an assistance dog despite his clearly marked 'service dog' lead and harness.

She claims this is because of her invisible disability and has been refused in supermarkets, doctors' surgeries, and cafes.

Glasgow Times: Theo has a lead that alerts others to the fact he is an assistance dog
Glasgow Times: Theo has a lead that alerts others to the fact he is an assistance dog

Theo has a lead that alerts others to the fact he is an assistance dog (Image: Colin Mearns)

Emma explained: “Theo has given me independence to be able to go out when I need to without needing someone with me, he helps with panic attacks too.

“My experience is very varied depending on where we go, sadly I do face a lot of discrimination or get asked very personal questions about why I need him.

“I've been refused into places, I've had a nurse be super rude and unaccommodating for me, I have been made to sit somewhere else, people also often distract him while he's working, and they assume because of his breed he's not a working dog.

“I am often told I don't look disabled, or that I don't actually need him or that he's fake.

“Most places actually leave me crying and rather upset with the way they speak to me about him.”

Glasgow Times: Emma can't leave the house without Theo
Glasgow Times: Emma can't leave the house without Theo

Emma can't leave the house without Theo (Image: Colin Mearns)

Theo can detect stress in Emma which allows him to get help or calm her down in situations.

He has been trained and has a special lead to show others he is working, but he is still turned away from some areas.

Now Emma wants to raise awareness so more people take her condition seriously and acknowledge her need for Theo.

She said: “When out all my focus is basically on him, and if I get too overwhelmed he's there for me.

“If my heart rate and anxiety levels are too high he alerts me for that or will alert other people to help.

“I wish people just knew the basics of not petting him when he's working or making kissy noises at him, if people ask me I normally say yes if he's not tasking and don't mind a quick hello.

“As for personal questions I'm happy to educate people, but I don't always want to announce my health issues to everyone.

“Theo has the same rights as a guide dog, and accommodations are required by law to be made and if more places educate their staff too, as so many people don't even know what one is when I tell them.

“I can't physically leave my home without him so I get people who basically think I'm acting or I don't actually need him, but they wouldn't say that to someone in a wheelchair.”