Access all areas?

Recently I’ve been hearing about more and more guide dog owners being turned away from taxis, restaurants, shops and other services or businesses. Last year I heard from a guide dog owner in my local area who had sadly been turned away by a driver after she had pre-booked a taxi home one evening.

The taxi driver claimed that his vehicle did not have the space to carry this lady’s guide dog and that it was a ‘big’ dog. As a result she was left in the dark and rain.

The good news is that in December Birmingham Magistrates Court found this taxi driver guilty of breaching the Equality Act (2010). By law the only reason a private hire driver can refuse to carry an assistance dog is if they have a medical exemption certificate issued by the council; which this taxi driver did not possess. His claim that the dog was too big to fit in his vehicle were dismissed by the Bench. He was therefore found guilty under Section 170 (3) (B) of the Equality Act (2010) and given the maximum fine of £1000 as the Magistrates felt that he had left a vulnerable person on her own in the dark and the fact that it was raining. On top of this he was ordered to pay £1000 of costs and a victim surcharge of £100.

I hope that this conviction sends out a strong message to taxi drivers across the country that refusing to take a guide or assistance dog unless they have a medical exemption certificate is illegal and they too could end up in court. We don’t want to see drivers having to be taken to court, we would rather see none of our guide dog owners ever left stranded, vulnerable, and feeling frustrated, angry and maybe disorientated.

We’re currently running a survey of assistance dog owners about these types of experiences where they have been turned away from a business or service because of their dog. If you would like to take part you can either visit our online survey or if this isn’t an option please leave a voicemail message on 0118 983 8770 and someone will call you back to talk you through the survey over the phone.

Comments

Guide Dogs Campaigns Team, 12:28pm Fri 20 Feb 2015:


Wow! Thanks for all the comments! Delighted to have triggered such a good conversation on the issue! Mel- so sorry to hear about your experience, have you taken part in the survey yet? It would be really helpful if you could share your views with us. The survey is available at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2015-Access-Survey or by calling: 0118 983 8770 Mary- Congratulations! What a great local campaigning victory! Sounds like this will be really helpful. Scott and Jan- Great to hear from you both. It’s very important to add that there are of course a large number of excellent taxi drivers already complying with the law and who are very welcoming to assistance dog owners.

Mary, 4:15pm Mon 16 Feb 2015:


As a blind guide dog owner I have experience all over the UK of being refused taxi rides. I have been told that they or someone in their family is "allergic" to dogs but had no way of checking even when they wagged a piece of paper in front of me, that it was a genuine Exemption Certificate. Aberdeen City Council has come to my rescue. After a great deal of campaigning, the Council has produced an exemption certificate with a clearly defined tactile symbol. This will mean that all blind and partially sighted people in the city, whether or not they read braille, will be immediately aware of the authenticity of the certificate. Teaching the blind community to reccognise the symbol will take time, but the will is there and the hope that this can be rolled out throughout the UK is the next big step, starting with COSLA - the Council of Scottish Local Authorities.

Anita, 2:04am Thu 5 Feb 2015:


I am utterly disgusted that people can treat you like this. I have supported Gdftb for a good few years. When all this nonsense is going on in this country - HOW DARE PEEPS NOT REALISE HOW TERRIBLE IT IS NOT BEING ABLE TO SEE - how vulnerable you are.

Mel, 9:50am Wed 4 Feb 2015:


Although I haven't been refused for a while now, I find that taxi drivers are increasingly outright rude if they don't want to carry my guide dog. An example of this happened only last week. The taxi pulled up and the driver shouted, "You bringing that dog?" I said yes it is a guide dog. He then shouted, "Sit in back with it". No please, no thank you, no how may I help you? I resented giving him my fare, but I had to be somewhere.

Scott, 6:54pm Tue 3 Feb 2015:


As a Hackney cab driver in Edinburgh, I can assure that there are NO circumstances in which I would refuse a guide dog. They are all welcome in my cab

Jan, 4:33pm Tue 3 Feb 2015:


As a puppy walker stranded in the snow a lovely taxi driver brought us home last week and offered to help . Thank you halifax taxi

Guide Dogs Campaigns Team, 4:12pm Tue 3 Feb 2015:


Thanks for all the comments everyone. Tina, Julian, and Jeremy, have you taken part in our survey yet? Your experiences will be really helpful for us as we look at how to tackle access issues. Visit: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2015-Access-Survey or call 0118 983 8770 to take part. Thanks, Rachael, Campaigns Team

Jeremy, 3:10pm Tue 3 Feb 2015:


I often get refused by taxi drivers when taking cabs off ranks in Cardiff. I ask them for a licence number and then they usually begrudgingly take me. I have some central vision and have even had occasions when they assume you are totally blind and ask for more fare than is actually showing on the meter. There is a difficult process for taking these drivers to task via the council as you have to attend hearings which when you work can be difficult. I feel that one of the best ways to teach these drivers a lesson is to take a small claims case for breach of Equalities Act. To do this some kind of legal assistance is needed as it can be complex to understand the small claims procedure with the time limits for filing documents under the Civil Procedure Rules. It would be great if Guide Dogs could obtain some pro bono (free) legal help from a solicitors firm to take on cases. There are reported cases of guide dog owners receiving damages of 1000 pounds which would compensate them for the distress of being refused and the time attending court. This could be done in addition to the council process for punishing taxi drivers. I would also say that I have had some superb taxi drivers who go the exra mile to help.

Marjorie williams, 2:32pm Tue 3 Feb 2015:


Those whose make these refusals should be blindfold and left alone in a busy town centre so they realise what it must be like.

Tina, 2:25pm Tue 3 Feb 2015:


Until recently I had my beloved Guide Dog for 11 years and we were never separated. Sadly at 12 and a half years old he was put to sleep. However in that time I have lost count of how many Taxi Drivers, Landlords, Restaurants, Shops, Hotels and even Jobs (bare in mind I work for the NHS) have refused us access all because Ivan was part of the package deal that made my life as good as what it is. I am often asked about Diversity in this Country and I have to say it is getting better but it still has a very long way to go before it can boast that Discrimination is a minimal problem.

Steve, 9:10pm Mon 2 Feb 2015:


People like this convicted driver should be more tolerant and, more importantly, helpful those who need guide dogs. Without the dogs, the lives of those people are hampered severely.

Julian, 5:41pm Mon 2 Feb 2015:


Have been turned away from a garage shop "No Dogs of any kind here" Had moans from Taxi drivers, but not a refusal. The worse is hotels, who for supposed health and safety reasons say it is not safe.

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This week's blog is written by Community Engagement Officer Sue Bushell.


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Taxi Drivers are required to carry assistance dogs unless they hold a valid medical exemption certificate.