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Courts take tough line with discriminatory drivers

Courts take tough line with discriminatory drivers
11th February 2019 Ian Streets

The BBC has highlighted two incidents of taxi drivers discriminating against visually-impaired people by refusing to allow assistance dogs into their cars.
In each case the driver was taken to court, and one of them lost his licence. The second driver was unfortunate enough to have picked on a BBC reporter, but sadly the journalist demonstrates no real hope that such discrimination will end soon.
The BBC website features the experience of Mark Whittle, who his blind, and his visually-impaired wife after their taxi turned up as agreed, but the driver refused to take them because of their dog. The company sent another car and told Mr Whittle to report the first driver.
As the driver had previously been fined for a similar offence, the court ordered him to surrender his licence and to reapply when he was “able to demonstrate that he is fit and proper to return to taxi driving”.
A Nottingham City Councillor told the BBC: “Under the Equality Act, guide dog and other assistance dog owners have the right to enter the majority of services, premises and vehicles with their dog.”
The second case involved BBC reporter Damon Rose, who was preparing to give evidence in the trial of a driver taken to court by Transport for London after claiming he was allergic to dogs and could therefore not carry the journalist and his Labrador retriever cross.
The driver was hit with a fine plus court fees of nearly £1,500 after changing his plea to guilty, but as the reporter left court another cab which he had booked to take him home failed to turn up.
He said: “The taxi driver called me when he arrived, asked me where I was, told me he could see me, then cancelled the job and drove away. Admittedly, it’s not too easy to park directly outside the court where I was – but he chose to leave a blind person on the kerb, in the rain and sleet, without attempting to find another location and without any explanation.
“It’s up to me to guess what happened. I think I can. And if I’m wrong… I’m afraid I’m still thinking it.”
The reporter revealed that he now routinely films his encounters with taxi drivers and has reported five refusal incidents in the last 18 months.
He said: “I’ve learned that taxi drivers can’t just say they’re allergic and drive away. They need proof of their allergy because many would rather not carry a dog.
“The Equality Act 2010 states that taxi and minicab drivers must carry assistance dogs unless they have genuine health reasons not to do so. Local authorities will provide a driver with an exemption certificate if they give proof from an appropriately qualified medic.
“The reason I’m sharing the video is because disability discrimination is an odd beast and, to the untrained eye, may not look like discrimination at all. But what happens in this video is a criminal offence – when you become a cab driver, you sign up to this contract. If you don’t want to take dogs, don’t be a cab driver.
“Each time I leave my front door I get my camera ready because I fear I’ll be refused again – like I have been dozens of times before. That goes for restaurants and the occasional shop too.”
The BBC reports that a survey of more than 1,000 assistance dog owners, conducted by Guide Dogs in spring 2015, found that 75 per cent had been refused access to a restaurant, shop or taxi because they had an assistance dog with them.
Damon said: “These days we might think of it as the kind of drip, drip, drip effect which causes trauma – chipping away at that part of your brain which stores all your disability insecurities, the job rejections, the name-calling across the street, the mandatory online training at work that turns out to be inaccessible… and taxi drivers, who in this case abandoned me on the pavement from where it took me several minutes to find my front door again even though it was just feet away.”
For more information on both stories please visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/disability

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