At Labour Party Conference I spoke to the Guide Dogs and heard about the real problems assistance dog owners face when being illegally refused by taxis and minicabs.
Imagine you were turned away by a taxi driver for no reason. This happens to people living with sight loss with shocking regularity just because they are travelling with their guide dog. It’s not only illegal, it knocks people’s confidence and stops them doing the everyday things that most people take for granted – going to a café, meeting friends or going to the doctor’s.
During my time as Minister for Disabled People in the DWP I am particularly proud to have steered the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 into law giving full civil rights to disabled people for the first time. Amongst other things it made it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people in the provision of services on the grounds of their disability. It required that reasonable adjustments be made to facilitate access for disabled people. This means that assistance dogs should be allowed and that disabled people should not be charged extra for a service such as a taxi ride.
However, Guide Dogs research found that 42% of assistance dog owners have been turned away by a taxi or minicab in a one-year period because of their dog. The research also uncovered that 38% of assistance dog owners have been asked to pay an extra fare for carrying their dog.
I am supporting Guide Dogs’ call for all taxi and minicab drivers to undertake disability equality training so they understand the rights and needs of disabled passengers and feel confident to offer assistance. The campaign is supported by more than 30 organisations, including trade bodies, local government representatives and disability groups.
I urge the Government to require disability equality training for all drivers to help reduce the number of access refusals.