Stoke taxi companies have defended themselves in response to claims that Guide Dog owners are being discriminated against nationally.
A new report from the Guide Dog Association claims that 75% of owners have been refused access to everyday services such as restaurants, shops and taxis in the last year alone.
The research shows that the most common refusal for an assistance dog owner comes from minicabs and private hire vehicles with 73% of those surveyed being affected in the last year alone.
Further figures revealed that 20% of taxi drivers were reported to arrive for collection, however they would drive off without speaking to the customer when they noticed the Guide Dog.
However, local taxi companies claim that they do not refuse service to any blind or partially sighted person or to their assistance dog.
Andrea Scott, spokeswoman for Staffordshire Sight Loss Association said: “I have a Guide Dog, but I’ve only had her for a year and so far, I have not had any refusals, but I am aware that it does happen a lot.”
When speaking to Stoke taxi companies, here is what they had to say:
City Cabs spokesperson said: “Yes, we do accept Guide Dogs. We do need anyone with a Guide Dog to let us know when they book though because some of our drivers are allergic and it means we make sure a taxi is sent out that and no delay on the journey will be caused.”
Intercity similarly accept Guide Dogs, but also need notice. A spokesman said: “All the drivers accept guide dogs, except one who has an allergy, so we do ask if anyone with a Guide Dog lets us know beforehand so that the drivers can be prepared.”
In comparison neither Lucky Seven nor Magnum taxis need prior notice before booking that a Guide Dog will be coming along for the ride. A Lucky Seven spokeswoman stated: “You don’t have to let us know beforehand because all our drivers must accept Guide Dogs.”
Magnum Taxis also confirmed and their spokesman clarified: “It’s just normal dogs that we don’t take but we must take Guide Dogs out of necessity.”
While taxis may have been the biggest offenders for refusal of entry, they are not the only ones to be illegally refusing services to an assistance dog owner.
The survey also revealed that 71% experienced refusals at restaurants, 60% at convenience stores and 59% at cafes.
David Clarke, Director of Services at Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB), said: “Although I have experienced access refusals first-hand, it is shocking to see just how widespread everyday discrimination against blind and partially sighted people really is.”
To help support assistance dog owners who have the potential to face this discrimination every day, Guide Dogs and RNIB have worked together to build a toolkit which outlines the key legal rights of a Guide Dog owner.
The toolkit aims to inform and empower even more guide dog owners so that they know their rights, recognise unfair practice and can confidently challenge discrimination should they encounter it based on their rights under the Equality Act 2010.
To get one of these toolkits get in touch with your local Guide Dogs team or contact RNIB on 0303 123 9999.