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Taxi drivers are unfairly labelled when it comes to accessibility

Guide dog helping a blind man in the city

Taxi drivers make positive differences to people’s lives, especially those with disabilities, but when things go wrong, the finger of suspicion is unfairly pointed at all of them.

The law about taxis carrying passengers with assistance dogs is clear and the small proportion of drivers who flout it deserve whatever punishment comes their way.

Negativity

But there appears to be an assumption that taxi drivers don’t like having animals – including assistance dogs – in their cabs and when spot checks are carried out, there is almost a surprise when drivers take disabled fares and their furry companions.

To ensure rules and regulations are being adhered to, licensing authorities rightly carry out tests, whether it is to see if a taxi driver will accept a passenger with an assistance dog, or if a shop sells cigarettes and alcohol to people who are underage.

A recent inspection in Litchfield saw council staff join the Guide Dogs charity to check that taxi drivers are complying with their legal requirement to carry guide or other assistance dogs.

The council reported: “An undercover licensing officer was joined by Regional Policy and Campaigns Manager, Jessica Luke, and her working guide dog, Pebble, to take journeys in taxis that had been booked in advance and from those parked on a taxi rank.

“No drivers refused to take the fare, although one did drive off when Jessica and Pebble approached a taxi rank. That driver was later questioned by licensing officers and was able to prove that he had received a booking for another journey.”

Allegations

The council explained that the operation had been organised after receiving “intelligence that taxi drivers have been refusing to carry visually impaired people accompanied by a working guide dog”.

Cabinet member Cllr Alex Farrell said: “I’m pleased that all the drivers who were checked during this operation complied with their legal requirement to carry guide dogs and thank them for doing so.”

While it is great that all drivers involved complied with regulations, it is disappointing that when one driver did leave, the assumption was that they didn’t want to take a fare that included a dog, when, in fact, they had and could prove that they had already had another booking.

It is even more disappointing to see other publications share versions of the same story that conjure up a reckless and uncaring image of taxi drivers.

Consequences

As in any industry, mistakes are made and there are instances where drivers have broken the rules and are rightly punished for it. Whether they are public or private hire drivers, accessibility and discrimination training is a key part of earning their taxi badges.

The Daily Mail reports that Jitu Miah refused to let Humira Mohamed and her assistance dog in his Uber PHV in the early hours. He denied one count of refusing to carry out a booking for a disabled person accompanied by assistance dog, contrary to the Equality Act 2010, but was found guilty by magistrates at City of London who fined him £311, ordered him to pay £450 in costs, and a further £124 in victim surcharge. He no longer works as a PHV driver.

And Milton Keynes taxi driver Sayid Ahmed Dahir was prosecuted for turning away two passengers, each with guide dogs. He pleaded guilty to refusing to take the assistance dogs and was fined £67, £350 costs plus a £27 victim surcharge. His taxi badge will also be reviewed by the council.

And South Tyneside taxi driver Mohammad Mahboob Hasan Khan was fined £83, with a £110 victim surcharge and £33 court costs after refusing to take a visually and hearing-impaired passenger and his assistance dog from the taxi rank at South Shields Transport Interchange. The Shields Gazette reports that he apologised in court and still works as a taxi driver.

None of these cases look good and the drivers have been appropriately dealt with. But it is unfair that the entire industry is portrayed negatively, with drivers going out of their way to avoid carrying passengers with dogs, even if they are legally obliged to.

All information is correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.

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