Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, visited a Guide Dogs event in Parliament on 16th November to show his support for taxi drivers receiving disability equality training when getting their licence. A Private Member’s Bill that sought to introduce such training was debated on 18th November but was not voted on due to lack of time.
At the event, guide dog owners told Mr. Thompson how taxi drivers refused to carry them because they had their guide dog with them. They explained that they had missed important appointments due to the refusals and how it had left them anxious and reluctant to use taxis again.
Although the Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for a taxi driver to refuse to carry an assistance dog, Guide Dogs research found that 42% of people living with sight loss were turned away by a taxi in the last year because of their guide dog. The research also uncovered that 38% of assistance dog owners have illegally been asked to pay an extra fare for carrying their dog.
Guide Dogs is calling for disability equality training to be made a requirement for all taxi drivers to help them understand the rights and needs of disabled people and how to welcome assistance dog owners.
Owen Thompson MP commented:
“It is shameful to hear from so many people who have been illegally turned away from taxis because they travel with an assistance dog. I’m asking the Government to act to ensure all taxi drivers receive disability equality training so they are aware of the law and how to assist their disabled customers in the right way.”
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, commented:
“Imagine you were turned away by a taxi driver or asked to pay an extra fare, for no good reason. Despite legal protection, this regularly happens to people living with sight loss because they are travelling with a guide dog.
“This discrimination is not only illegal, it knocks people’s confidence and can stop them doing everyday things that most people take for granted.
“We are very disappointed that we didn’t see a vote on the Disability Equality Training Bill. We were encouraged by the Government’s supportive comments and hope they will take action to introduce training for all taxi drivers.”