A BLIND Coventry student has faced discrimination by city landlords in her plight to live an independent life.
Charlotte Nickson, claims the landlords and agencies she has contacted have denied her tenancy because of their ‘no pets’ policies and it has taken the intervention of her University to prevent her being homeless over the summer months.
Having grown up in sheltered care in Oxford, Charlotte has no family to return home to, which has resulted in Coventry University extending its offer of accommodation for the 19-year-old throughout the summer holidays and through the next academic year.
But, while Charlotte is hugely grateful for their help, she still wants to tackle the bigger issue at hand- the discrimination facing blind people and Guide Dog users who want to live an independent life.
The Biological and Forensic Science student has been searching for a home since November, but claims she is the victim of prejudice and unfair policies.
Speaking to The Observer this week she said: “Most landlords and letting agencies won’t even reply to my requests to view properties – one even changed their rules to state that no animals were allowed to try and get out of having to obey the law.
“Another letting agency said the only way they would let me live in their properties would be if my Guide Dog lived in the garden.”
Registered as visually impaired, Charlotte relies on her trusted guide dog Layla to aid her with day-to-day activites others take for granted – helping her find doors, go up and down stairs, and get around safely when out and about.
She added: “Before I had Layla a crack in a paving slab would have meant falling and a few times this resulted in broken wrists.
“Doing simple things like going out with friends, getting to class and going shopping are almost, if not completely, impossible with out her.”
Robert Jinks, Community Engagement Officer at Guide Dogs UK, said that the charity was extremely disappointed to hear about the difficulties Charlotte is facing.
He added: “The Equality Act entitles blind and partially sighted people to the same rights in relation to renting or buying a property as anyone else, and it is unlawful for landlords to discriminate against Guide Dog owners when renting a property to them.
“Landlords have a duty to make reasonable adjustments in amending their ‘no dogs’ policy as guide or assistance dogs are not pets but mobility aids.
“Charlotte’s Guide Dog is an essential part of her life, enabling her to enjoy the same freedom as everyone else and get to where she wants to be in life.”
Guide Dogs have promised Charlotte support in her plight should she need it.
City councillor Jim O’Boyle has also lent his support to Charlotte’s cause, and said he would condemn the actions of any landlords found breaking the Equality Act.
If you can help Charlotte please contact reporter Lauren Clarke on 01926 317110 and we can pass on your details to try and help find her a home.