People with sight loss who rely on guide dogs to safely leave the house are increasingly being left stranded by taxi and minicab drivers who illegally refuse to let them travel.
We can reveal that the number of people reporting a refusal by a taxi or minicab driver has more than doubled in the last three years, from 66 refusals in 2013 to 146 in 2016, despite it being illegal to do so under the Equality Act 2010. The charity fears this is only the tip of the iceberg, with many more refusals going unreported.
As a result, guide dog owners who rely on taxis are left feeling excluded and embarrassed and are being prevented from doing everyday things, such as getting to work, attending appointments and visiting friends and family.
We have launched a petition calling for the Government to make disability equality training mandatory for all licensed taxi and minicab drivers. They also urge councils to use the full extent of powers available to them to punish drivers who flout the law.
Some common excuses given by drivers include: “My car isn’t big enough”; “I have a fear of dogs”; and “Our taxi company is exempt from carrying dogs”. But, these are all an illegal breach of the Equality Act. The only legal reason for refusing to transport a guide dog is a genuine medical certificate from a doctor, approved by the local authority.
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, said:
“This discrimination is not only illegal, but it’s also a huge blow to people’s confidence and feelings of acceptance in society. Taxi and minicab drivers need to understand and abide by the law and welcome guide dogs and other assistance dogs into their vehicles.”
Sophie Strawbridge, from Swansea, says taxi refusals are frequent. Earlier this year she was humiliated in front of a long queue after two taxis in a row refused to accept her and her guide dog, Pat, and her boyfriend, who also has a guide dog.
“The feeling of rejection is horrendous. It’s like nobody cares and they just want to pretend I don’t exist. I feel so nervous and anxious that I wish I could avoid taxis altogether, but sometimes there’s no other choice. I wish taxi drivers and the Councils who could do more to prevent this could understand how much I need my guide dog and how it feels when we’re abandoned.”
Sign our petition to help end this discrimination