Disabled woman “humiliated” after St Albans restaurant trip

Kathryn and Anna

Kathryn and Anna - Credit: Archant

A disabled woman says she was made to “distressed” and “humiliated” after visiting a St Albans restaurant with her assistance dog.

Kathryn Reardon, 51, was looking forward to a rare gathering with four university friends at The Waffle House on Friday, April 21 - she has been going to the restaurant for about 10 years and recommended it to the group for the event.

She is severely deaf and has a assistance dog, Anna, to help her to go about her daily life.

The group wanted to sit inside so Kathryn could lip-read and join in with conversation, which would have been impossible in the noisy outside area.

Anna did not have her identification bib on at this point and there was no indication that she was an assistance dog.

Once they had sat down, an employee came over and asked them to move outside, mistaking Anna for a normal pet and explaining that dogs are only allowed in the outside area of the restaurant.

The group explained the situation, and Kathryn slipped Anna into her identifying bib, which had been in the car - they were told twice more by escalating managers that if someone complained the group would have to move.

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The Waffle House said they did not notice the bib had been put on since the first conversation and that is where the miscommunication happened.

Kathryn said: “When we were initially asked to move I felt that there was a misunderstanding, when I explained several times that Anna was an assistance dog I felt they were not listening at all.

“It was frustrating and humiliating.”

She said if they had asked, she also had a passport book which proves Anna’s status.

As no-one complained, the group were not made to move and spent around three hours eating their meals.

Kathryn says Anna is to her what a wheelchair is to a disabled person: “She alerts me to sounds that I might not hear otherwise, a fire alarm, my phone, my alarm clock, my doorbell.

“She is my constant companion and I rely on her to keep me safe.”

As it currently stands, Kathryn said she will not be going back to the Waffle House, but since she has complained and the Herts Advertiser has been in contact, they have apologised.

Owner of The Waffle House, Joe Gaze, said : “I am concerned and very sorry to hear about this.

“The Waffle House is a family business that takes pride in providing a warm welcome.

“It’s clear that, on this occasion, we fell short of our usual standards of friendly, helpful service and we are now conducting a review of what happened.”