I seem to have the writing bug in a big way this week as this is the second blog entry that I have produced in a day. I enjoy writing and expressing views and opinions through this medium, but to make it affective, I need the source material to reflect on.
Accessibility is a word that will be repeated many times through my blog. It has so many contexts and uses, but in whatever way it’s used, the importance of accessibility is paramount. In this entry, I’m looking again at the accessibility of a public service that has been problematic to many visually impaired people; especially those of us with guide dogs. Yet again, I was talking to someone who had problems in getting a taxi to take them home from the supermarket.
After completing their shopping, they asked the staff at the supermarket to call a taxi for them. This was fine and all seemed well. However, when they went out to get the taxi, the driver said that he couldn’t take them and it would have to be the next one; even though he was sent for them in the first place. This was repeated several times until another taxi turned up and took the person and their guide dog home. This wasn’t the end of it though, because the driver then proceeded to explain that they charged £3.50 for carrying guide dogs; something that is categorically against the law. Luckily, this person stood their ground and they were not charged, but it appears that some taxi drivers are either ignorant of the law or are looking to get around it by assuming that others are ignorant of their rights.
I have purposely kept identities and locations secret as I have been requested to do so. However, it is important to discuss and highlight the problems that are constantly faced in this area. I must, however, point out that there are many good and helpful taxi drivers and companies out there that do abide by the law without question, but there are situations where this doesn’t happen.
The only exemption to carrying a guide or indeed an assistance dog with their owner is if the driver has a medical exemption. In the area concerned, there is only one or two medical exemptions held by registered taxi drivers. The refusal to take a guide dog owner by saying the next one along will be for them is another way of trying to get around the law. Refusing someone is not just unlawful; it can also affect someone’s confidence and willingness to travel. Yes, there may well be other reasons highlighted why a driver does or will not take someone with an assistance dog, but if they do not have the correct exemption then they have to take them. If they still object then should they be really working as a taxi driver in the first place?
It is important to highlight such things as this because it does help to highlight some of the problems that are faced by visually impaired people and guide dog owners. As mentioned, it is important to recognise that there are great instances of good practice and hopefully these will become the norm as refusals such as those given above will become less and less common.