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Taxi firms face fines for refusing Guide Dogs


TAXI FIRMS have been warned they face fines if they refuse to allow Guide Dogs and other Assistance Dogs into their cabs, a local authority had said.

Bedford Borough Council said it prosecuted private hire firm Crown Cars (Bedford) Limited after it refused to take a blind man with a guide dog.

The firm pleaded guilty to the offence at Bedford Magistrates' Court under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and received a £250 fine and £250 costs.

Licensing officers will seek to fine firms who refuse to take guide dogs.

Keith Simmons, from Bedford Council said: ‘Licensing officers were very concerned that any of its licensed drivers could refuse to accept a hiring from a visually-impaired person simply because they were accompanied by a guide dog.

‘This is unacceptable and I hope that this prosecution will send out this message to all licensed drivers.’

Crown Cars (Bedford) Limited was also ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge.

OUR DOGS has reported on several instances of taxi drivers refusing to take guide dogs, the common cause of complaint being Muslim taxi drivers who see dogs as ‘unclean’.

As reported previously, taxis and private hire vehicles are being encouraged to welcome guide dog owners in a new information leaflet published by Guide Dogs.

The publication, ‘Access to taxis and private hire vehicles for guide dog owners’ outlines the duties of taxi and private hire vehicle drivers and operators under the Disability Discrimination Act. It explains how services can be adapted for people with sight loss, and offers reassurance about the hygiene and training of guide dogs.

Since 31 March 2001 (31 March 2003 in Scotland) taxi drivers have been required to carry, free of charge, guide and other assistance dogs travelling with their owner. A similar duty has applied since 31 March 2004 to drivers and operators of private hire vehicles (private hire cars in Scotland).

Additionally, since 4 December 2006, under Part 3 of the Act, it has been unlawful for them to refuse service to a disabled person – including guide dog owners – or offer a lower standard of service for reasons related to the person’s disability. The law also requires them to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in the way that their services are provided – though that does not include physical alterations to the vehicles.

The Guide Dogs’ leaflet emphasises the importance of knowing how to communicate with blind and partially-sighted people, including speaking to the person – not their guide dog, and asking what assistance they need, rather than making assumptions.

Drivers are reminded to communicate clearly to blind and partially-sighted passengers the fare or meter reading and when giving change, to count out coins and notes into the passenger’s hand.
With regard to guide dogs, the leaflet emphasises that they are well groomed and are trained to sit at their owner’s feet, not climb on the seats of the vehicle or distract the driver.

* To order a complimentary copy of ‘Access to taxis and private hire vehicles for guide dog owners’, please phone 0845 241 2178 or you can download a copy from the GDBA website www.guidedogs.org.uk/campaigns

2008 is the Year of the Assistance Dog, with guide dog owners nominating taxis, private hire vehicles and other services for Dog Star Awards, based on good practice outlined in Guide Dogs’ (and other assistance dog) leaflets.

It seems unlikely that Crown Cars (Bedford) Ltd will be receiving such an award.