Earlier this year, I, my husband and a friend were refused a taxi because we had two guide dogs with us. At the time I didn’t write about it as we planned to take it as far as we could and hopefully take the driver to court.
We booked a taxi with DG Cars in Nottingham and advised them that we would need an estate car as we had two guide dogs. There was no problem at the time of booking. However, when the driver arrived, he spoke to my husband who was first out to the car and just said “no dogs”. He then proceeded to lock his doors, close the windows and refused to speak to us. I knocked on his window and asked to see his medical exemption certificate, as, if he’d had one, he wouldn’t have been obliged to take us. He opened his window a couple of inches, said he didn’t need one and closed it again.
My husband called DG who contacted the driver and advised him that he had to take us but, although he didn’t drive away immediately, he didn’t attempt to speak to us again. This gave us enough time to take some photographs of the car and the driver inside it which were very useful when presenting evidence.
He eventually drove away and we had to re-book our taxi.
To cut a long story short, Gedling Borough Council who are the licencing authority in this instance were very supportive of our case. The Licencing Officer was very thorough and took detailed evidence from the three of us. Gedling then took the driver to court.
The plea hearing was today but the driver didn’t appear at court. He was therefore found guilty in his absence and fined £660 plus costs. His total fine was just over £1000.
With the law as it stands, this was a very good result and I hope serves as a message to all taxi drivers that it is against the law to refuse blind and partially sighted people with their guide dogs. We are very grateful to Gedling Borough Council for taking this on for us and achieving this result.
However, I’m not sure that a fine is really enough of a deterrent to stop this from happening again and again to guide dog owners. I personally think that a temporary loss of licence would send out more of a message but that is just my opinion.
My message to other guide dog owners out there would be to report every refusal and take it as far as you possibly can. Your licencing authority and Guide Dogs will help you. The more prosecutions there are, the wider the message will be spread.