TORONTO — A restaurant owner who was at the centre of Global News stories about accessibility has completely changed his perspective.
The owner of Ikki Sushi hasn’t only apologized to the woman whose guide dog he told he did not want inside, but he is going above and beyond to make a difference.
Bob Huang offered Karoline Bourdeau and her guide dog a warm welcome at his restaurant. He also issued an apology.
“I’m so sorry,” was one of the first things Huang said when Bourdeau walked through the door for the first time since the incident occurred in the spring.
Huang said what happened initially was a misunderstanding.
As Global News reported in March, he told Bourdeau and her husband that her service dog had to leave.
At the time, he didn’t know he was legally required to allow service dogs inside, explained Huang, through a Cantonese translator.
“Which is why I acted the way I did,” he said.
“Since then, in my workplace, we welcome everyone whether they have a service dog or not. “
Huang also said he has since committed to volunteering with the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.
Trainers from the organization took a young dog named Zircon to the Scarborough restaurant so Huang could learn some basics and experience how guide dogs work.
The trainers also showed Huang how to use the harness and had Zircon guide him up a flight of stairs and to the curb of a street.
Bourdeau had initially filed a human rights complaint, but said it is not going any further after Huang came forward with his idea of volunteering.
“He’s using the opportunity to learn and to help educate,” said Bourdeau.
“He’s not only apologized but hes also taking a positive step in doing something about what he did not know about.”
The guide dog trainers were pretty impressed as well.
“Having Bob on the team as a volunteer, I think within no time he will be an amazing ambassador for handlers of service dogs,” said Jenny Gladish, Communications Manager for Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.
Gladish added that by having the trainers and dog at his restaurant, Huang is already helping to build awareness.
“Unfortunately it does still happen that people aren’t aware of the role service dogs play,” said Gladish.
Huang said he wanted to make up for his mistake and believes everyone should be treated equally, even quoting a Chinese proverb about harmony.
“When conflicts arise, it’s best not to burn your bridges,” he said. “That way, everyone can get along in the future.”