Last week I visited a Guide Dogs event in Parliament to support a Guide Dogs campaign for taxi and minicab drivers to receive disability equality training when getting their licence.
The guide dog owners, including Mahomed Khatri pictured above with guide dog Vargo, told me how taxi and minicab drivers sometimes 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.
A Private Member’s Bill that sought to introduce the training had been brought to parliament on November 18th by my friend and colleague Andrew Gwynne, the Labour MP for Denton and Reddish, but filibustering by Conservative MP Sheryll Murray meant that the allotted time was taken up and a debate on Andrew's Bill was unable to take place.
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.
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, says:
‘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.’
This government are making a habit of filibustering decent and unobjectionable Private Member's Bills, having talked out proposals in recent months which would have guaranteed first aid training in secondary schools, free parking at hospitals and ended the use of wild animals in circuses. This latest Tory filibuster is another shameful example and a damning indictment of Conservative values.
I’m asking the Government to act to ensure all taxi and minicab drivers receive disability equality training so they are aware of the law and how to assist their disabled customers in the right way, and if this issue is brought to parliament again let us be given the chance to debate it. It's the least the victims of discrimination deserve.