Daniel Zeichner MP joined a Guide Dogs event in Parliament to show his support for taxi and minicab drivers receiving disability equality training when getting their licence. A Private Member’s Bill that sought to introduce such training was recently debated in the House of Commons, with Mr Zeichner responding for Labour, but the Bill was talked out by Conservative backbenchers and not voted on due to a lack of time.
At the event, guide dog owners told the MP for Cambridge how taxi and minicab 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 and minicabs again.
Although the Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for a taxi or minicab 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 or minicab 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 and minicab drivers to help them understand the rights and needs of disabled people and how to welcome assistance dog owners. Cambridge City Council has recently introduced disability equality training, with a number of training sessions starting from January 2017, leading to all taxi drivers getting training as part of the taxi licensing process.
Daniel Zeichner MP said: “I’m pleased with the progress being made by Cambridge City Council, but sadly this is not a uniform policy across the country. I have met Cambridge constituents who have told me about the problems they have faced. That is why I am calling on the Government to act on the concerns of many disabled people by insisting on a nationwide change in taxi training by local authorities. Although the Bill fell, the Minister promised action, and I will hold him to that”.
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 and minicab drivers.”