We feel something must be done to help someone needing a taxi that has an assistance guide dog. The very nature of the dogs is that he or she will behave themselves. Sean Dilley writing in the Guardian stated he and his guide dog were turned away 30 times by a taxi firm.
There are many instances when assistance dogs are refused the use of taxis, however this resolution is primarily concerned with guide dogs for the blind.
As an example of how this can feel to a blind person:
A blind young woman is looking forward to a day out. She has just been given a guide dog. She has spent time with him and he has responded to her commands. He has been trained to be her eyes. Today is the day they will be out together for the first time and she is meeting her mother in the town centre. She has phoned for a taxi and waits outside the front door. The taxi driver has a new car, his pride and joy, and when he sees the young lady waiting for him drives off and leaves her. The only way she knows he has been there is when she hears the engine slow and then the car accelerate. She has to re-enter the house and phone the company again. She does not complain but has been let down for this wonderful day out.
She is not alone, according to statistics unfortunately 42% of assistance was turned away by a taxi or mini cab in the last year because of their dog. Drivers need to understand the difficult lives some people have to endure and how they could play such a part in helping to achieve a successful life. Imagine if you are blind and rely on your dog to help with everyday life, such as shopping, going to a support group or just to visit a family member who is ill and you phone for a taxi. You explain that you are blind but omit to say that you have a dog.
For another instance: You are waiting with a friend who hails a roving taxi for you; one starts to pull up but seeing the guide dog accelerates away.
Taxi firms are licensed by local authorities who give them a number of instructions as to what they must or must not do. Another local council took action against a firm who receiving a booking agreed to attend but when told there would be a guide dog said there were no available taxis. The firm pleaded guilty and was fined £900, which included costs. They will in future take notice of their commitment to help those who need the assistance dog to help in their everyday life.
Unfortunately, some taxi firms do not have a telephone number to call. They might not regard a physical conversation to be 21st century but it would help a blind customer to be able to speak to someone when incidents occur. Although I have given instances of Blind Taxi troubles, these problems also apply to Deaf and other disabilities that people endure who need help from assistance dogs.
We urge the Government to intervene to make sure that no one is left behind because of having an assistance guide dog.
Reply from:-The Rt. Hon. John HAYES CBE MP – Minister of State
Thank you for your letter to Chris Grayling about assistance dogs in Taxis and Minicabs. I am replying as Minister responsible for this issue.
The Government is committed to building transport networks that work for all, including ensuring that disabled people have the same access to transport services as other members of society. I know that guide and assistance dogs can be vital for many peoples access to transport, and that refusal to carry them can seriously inhibit their owners’ ability to live independently.
To be clear Government expects all transport operators and authorities, including the drivers of Taxis and private hire vehicles, to play their part in ensuring that nobody is excluded from services on account of being disabled.
I understand how distressing the refusal of assistance dogs can be for their owners, whether in a shop, restaurant, taxi or private hire vehicle. Not only can it be inconvenient, it puts at risk the confidence that disabled people have in their ability to go about their lives with dignity.
As you are aware, the Equality Act 2010 already makes it a criminal offence to refuse the carriage of an assistance dog or to charge extra for doing so. It is unacceptable that drivers without medical exemption certificates continue to refuse assistance dogs and I strongly encourage licensing authorities to take robust action against those willing to comply. Courts already have powers to impose fines up to £1000. TFL alone have successfully prosecuted 21 minicab drivers since 2015, with fines imposed totalling £7,055.
We plan to consult on revised best practice guidance for local authorities, which will include strengthened recommendations relating to the provision of an accessible taxi and PHV service.
In the meantime, please be assured of Government’s interest in this issue, and its commitment to see the barriers that still inhibit some people’s ability to travel, challenged and overcome.