TfA members welcome Transport for London new campaign to tackle private hire drivers and operators refusing assistance dog owners.
We are also very pleased to hear that TfL is planning a further campaign, to educate taxi and private hire drivers on their responsibilities to wheelchair users, later this year.
Last year, a BBC London investigation revealed the difficulties faced by assistance dog users to use minicab (PHV) services. Out of the twenty cabs test-booked, five refused to take the clearly marked guidedog. One driver asked for more money, while another claimed he could not take the dog because of “hay fever“.
A Freedom of Information request made by Transport for All to TfL about assistance dog refusals found that only 36 complaints had been made in one year about taxi and PHV drivers refusing assistance dogs – the tip of the iceberg, we believe.
The campaign aims to educate private hire drivers and operators on their obligations. There are three parts to the campaign:
- A poster, which has been sent to all private hire operators across London, to raise awareness of the seven types of assistance dogs they can expect to use their vehicles.
- A guide to accepting assistance dogs, which makes drivers and operators aware of their obligations and dispels any myths they might have.
- A customer leaflet, setting out their rights, advice for booking private hire vehicles and how to contact us if there’s a problem
It is unlawful under Section 168 and 170 of the Equalities Act for a taxi or PHV respectively to refuse an assistance dog. Last year, Sky reporter Sean Dilley successfully prosecuted a Hailo driver after they refused him and his guidedog.
Know your rights and report discriminatory drivers
As part of the campaign, TfL produced a customer leaflet reminding assistance dog users about their rights.
When travelling keep in mind that:
- A driver can’t refuse your journey because you have an assistance dog
- A driver can’t charge you more because you have an assistance dog
- A private hire minicab company can’t refuse to accept your booking because you have an assistance dog
- Your dog should always be able to sit next to you during your journey
- When you are booking a journey, it is optional to tell the person taking the booking that you have an assistance dog but it is better if you do
The only exception is when a driver has a health condition (for example, an allergy) that means they hold an exemption certificate. Such exemption certificates are issued by Transport for London (as the licencing authority) only if the driver has a medical condition that has been certified by a medical specialist.
It’s important that you challenge any drivers/operators who refuse your assistance dog or charging you more (You may want to keep a copy of this customer leaflet with you).
But more importantly it’s very important that you report those unlawful acts, .
The campaign comes as TfL is taking action to prosecute drivers that do not comply with the law. TfL announced that it has successfully prosecuted five drivers and three operators for refusing to take assistance dogs and has eight prosecutions pending and is currently investigating eight more cases.
If you have experienced a problem when using taxi or minicab services in London, report it by contacting TfL, online, by phone (0343 222 1234) or by post London Taxi and Private Hire, TfL Customer Services, 4th Floor, 14 Pier Walk, London SE10 0ES.
Do not hesitate to contact our Helpline: 020 7737 2339 / firstname.lastname@example.org
TfA members welcome this initiative and hope the campaign will be widely spread.
However there are some concerns remaining, which have been raised at the last London Assembly Transport Committee discussion on travelling with sensory impairment. Dr Tom Pey, Chief Executive of the Royal London Society for Blind People raised the issue of taxi drivers who “silently refuse or not to pull up” when they see an assistance dog user. TfA agrees that the government should update the Equalities Act to define this as an offence.
Assembly Member Valerie Shawcross raised concerns about the fact that there are only 8 prosecutions per 100,000 minicab drivers and asked TfL to publish more information about their policy on licensing and how they are encouraging people to report refusals.