LOCAL Liberal Democrats have called on Woking Borough Council to raise awareness of the rights of blind people and their guide dogs to use taxis after a cab driver from a local firm refused to take a blind army veteran.
Lib Dem Group Leader Will Forster ‘called in’ the incident involving Galaxy Cars and Mr Peter Williams, who served in the Royal Signals, to the council’s Equalities Task Group who, on November 6, reviewed the way taxis treat blind and partially sighted people.
The Disability Discrimination Act, and the newer Equalities Act, ban cabs from refusing to carry guide dogs unless the driver has a medical certificate to prove an allergy.
As well as this being the law, the council have also written ‘fair treatment of blind people and their guide dogs’ into all taxi licensing agreements.
Councillor Forster said: “What happened to Mr Williams was serious. I do not want to see taxi companies out of business or their employees fired – I just want to make sure that cab firms treat blind people correctly in the first place.
“The council must play their part and increase awareness of the rules. Following the review of my Equalities Task Group, I have asked the licensing team to write to the taxi firm in question – and all other cab companies in the borough – to see what training they provide for their staff.
“Everyone in a taxi firm should know that it is unlawful to refuse to carry a guide dog.”
The council will also provide clarification to cabbies on the rules regarding dogs travelling in taxis to ensure that drivers and switchboard operators know exactly what the rules are.
Mr Williams had been to The Lightbox Museum and Gallery in Woking for a Blind Veterans UK awareness exhibition last month.
In the afternoon, the 63-year-old called Galaxy Cars to collect him and his guide dog to take him home to Staines. But the cab firm told him they would not be able to because ‘they do not take dogs of any sort’.
Mr Williams, who relies on his guide dog to maintain his independence, said he was disgusted and disappointed. Mohammed Zubair, who owns Galaxy Cars, said he had sacked a member of staff following the incident. He said it must have been a mistake and would make sure it never happens again to any disabled person.
Cllr Forster is hoping the review will improve things for disabled people taking taxis in future.