Disability Disabled people Submissions & observations

Landmark Decision in Equality Case Brought by Guide Dog Handler

A member of Voice of Vision Impairment (VVI) who was refused service at a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) emporium on Parnell Street, Dublin, on April 25th 2023, because she was accompanied by her guide dog, called Quilla, has had her complaint upheld in a decision by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), which is the body that hears such cases for adjudication in the first instance.

Maria Rosita Apaza Machaka brought the claim of discrimination against Scotco (RoI) Limited, owners of KFC in Ireland, after she was made to leave the fast-food restaurant having been refused service, because staff insisted that no dogs were allowed on the premises.

The adjudicator at the WRC found that there was inadequate training of KFC staff leading to the incident in which KFC workers on the evening did not know that guide-dog-handlers have a legal right to access services on the same basis as anyone else.

Dr. Robert Sinnott, Co-Ordinator of VVI, which assisted Ms. Apaza Machaka with her case, today praised the courage of the complainant. “This form of discrimination is so commonplace, but only a fraction of those affected by it actually stand up for their rights by making a legal complaint,” he said. “It needs to be realised by all service-providers that they are obliged to accommodate guide-dog-owners, and not discriminate against them, or else, they are liable to face the consequences.”

Landmark Case

The adjudicator awarded Ms. Apaza Machaka €2,000 to be paid by the respondent in compensation for the way she was treated, but significantly, that Scotco (RoI) Limited have to have their new disability awareness training programme checked by a “disability rights organisation.”

In Ireland, these organisations are known as Disabled Persons’ Representative Organisations (DPROs), or Disabled Persons’ Organisations (DPOs), and they are a relatively new phenomenon here. They must be founded with advancement of Human Rights at their core, and they must be led, directed, run, and mostly membered by disabled people, ourselves.

Traditionally, in Ireland, the brand-name disability service providers have claimed the mantle of being “representative.” However, in its clarification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which Ireland ratified in 2018, the UN Committee has made it clear that the only representative organisations regarding disability are DPROs, and that disability service providers may have a conflict of interest by putting their organisational interests before Human Rights in their advocacy.

As such, according to the UN Committee, disability-proofing requires that DPROs have their views and opinions prioritised over those of all other organisations, and be closely consulted and actively involved on a uniquely deep level in all disability-related consultations. Indeed, even disability service-providers should closely consult with and actively involve DPROs in their own advocacy relating to the CRPD.

“This decision brings Ireland that bit closer to practical recognition of the legal standing of DPROs as the experts in disability, and to compliance with Ireland’s obligations under the CRPD,” said Dr. Sinnott.

Voice of Vision Impairment is Ireland’s national DPRO with specific focus on the rights and needs of people with visual impairments (i.e., those who are blind or partially sighted).

The decision can be read in full at: