Transport for London (TfL) has successfully prosecuted a minicab driver for refusing to take an assistance dog.
By law private hire drivers must not refuse to carry a passenger because they want to travel with an assistance dog and operators are unable to charge extra on their fare.
Since TfL began prosecuting private hire drivers for not accepting assistance dogs in February 2015, 21 minicab drivers have been successfully prosecuted and fined a total of £7,055.
Sophie Biebuyck, was on her way to a wedding reception with her hearing dog Rusty when the driver refused to take her dog unless she paid an additional £45. Sophie refused and arrived late to the reception.
At City of London Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 19 April 65-year-old Ali Ates of, Brooke Road, Clapton was found guilty in his absence of refusing to carry a passenger who wished to be accompanied by an assistance dog, fined £500 and ordered to pay £988 in costs.
Helen Chapman, TfL’s General Manager of Taxi and Private Hire, said:
‘We want to ensure that London’s transport network is accessible to all. By law, passengers travelling with assistance dogs must be carried by both taxi and private hire vehicles – at no extra cost. We take a zero tolerance approach to drivers refusing to carry passengers accompanied by assistance dogs and we encourage customers to report any incidents to us, so we can investigate and take the appropriate regulatory action.’
There are nearly 1,000 hearing dogs like Rusty across the country, which are specially trained to alert their deaf owner to important sounds they may not hear, such as alarm clocks, door bells and fire alarms.
Sophie Biebuyck, said:
‘Being denied access to the minicab on the day of my friend’s wedding was extremely upsetting and embarrassing. My hearing dog Rusty is not just a loyal companion; he’s my ears, alerting me to important sounds and sirens. Without Rusty by my side I would not be as independent as I am today. I am delighted with the result and would like to thank both TfL and Hearing Dogs for supporting me and ensuring that those with hearing impairments, such as myself, can continue travel around London freely.’
Angie Platten, Hearing Dog’s Head of Partnerships, said:
‘Hearing dogs are specially selected and highly trained assistance dogs which allow deaf people greater independence, confidence and companionship. Many deaf people lack the confidence to go out and about and therefore once a hearing dog is partnered with a deaf person they enable them to do things they felt they couldn’t.
‘To be refused access to travel using a minicab can be a highly frustrating and distressing position for a deaf person. They often struggle with communication and can feel abandoned with no ability to contact the minicab provider to explain or rebook due to their inability to hear on the phone.
‘Being refused access to travel in a minicab can knock the confidence of a deaf person meaning that in some cases, they can be fearful of using public transport and once again going out and about to work or engage in social activities.’
In February 2016 TfL launched a campaign targeting taxi and private hire drivers highlighting their obligations to passengers accompanied by assistance dogs.