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Paralympian files complaint after guide dog hotel controversy in Ucluelet

Blind National Team rower Victoria Nolan hopes to get the word out so it stops future incidents
Eamonn and Victoria Nolan with their children Ceili and Tarabh and guide dog Alan. (Submitted photo)

What should have been quality family beach getaway has quickly escalated to a potential fine for a Ucluelet hotelier when Canadian Paralympic rower Victoria Nolan was denied a room because of her certified guide dog, Alan, who she relies on for eyesight.

“I’m frustrated that it keeps happening and I just hope each time that I get the word out there and contact the police that it will stop it from happening in the future,” she said.

“It’s important to understand that anywhere the general public can go, those are the same places that someone with a guide dog can go. A guide dog is nothing like a pet dog. Besides the fact they are keeping a blind person safe, they also go through vigorous training.”

Ahead of their July trip, the Paralympian’s husband Eomann Nolan sent several emails out to various hotels in both Tofino and Ucluelet, clearly stating that his wife uses a guide dog. Two Tofino-based resorts offered the option of staying in a pet-friendly room (for over $600 a night), which Eomann decided to brush off and keep looking.

“In the world of the blind guide dog users, some things are well-known. You can’t add a cleaning fee and you can’t move them to a pet-friendly room,” Eomann said.

An Ucluelet-based hotel got back to him with a less expensive rate, but noted that they would not be allowed to bring their guide dog.

“Right away the first email out of the gate, they said we couldn’t bring my guide dog because the owner has allergies. That’s like saying you can’t bring a wheelchair if you have a wheelchair.”

The Ucluelet hotel owner told the Westerly it was a “massive misunderstanding” involving a new employee who wasn’t aware of provincial laws and that less than an hour after realizing the mistake, they apologized and invited them to stay at a discounted rate.

Nolan says an apology simply doesn’t undo that sort of rejection.

“When someone does that it’s just the feeling that you’re not accepted, you don’t belong, and for me it effects whether or not I want to try going to places. It does take some courage to go into a restaurant, book a hotel or get a taxi, and be ready to deal with that. You’re putting yourself out there to potentially be humiliated. Sometimes I choose not to go if I don’t have the strength to deal with it. I’d rather stay home,” she said.

A complaint was filed to the RCMP, and the hotel could face a fine under B.C.’s Guide Dog and Service Dog Act.

Nolan, 46, has Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). In her case, pregnancy accelerated the disease, Eomann explained. When she had her first child Tarabh, she lost half her eyesight and when she had her second child, Ceili, she went totally blind.

In the past, the Nolan’s have also filed legal complaints for similar incidents that took place at a gas station and when trying to hail a taxi.

“We aren’t looking for money when we do this. We’ll fly out there and testify at our own expense. We won’t get a penny from this. (Our) feeling is if we keep doing this eventually people will get it and God forbid if one of our kids’ go blind they won’t have to deal with this,” said Eomann.

Alan and Nolan are heading for Tokyo in mid-August for the Paralympics.

“He goes everywhere she goes. He is better behaved than most people,” said Eomann.

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Nora O'Malley

About the Author: Nora O'Malley

Nora O'Malley studied journalism at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
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