Taxi ban after guide dog row

A Guide Dog
A Guide Dog

An unlicensed Wigan taxi driver who refused to transport a blind man and his guide dog has been barred from operating in the borough.

The driver, who has not been named by Wigan Council, did not want the canine in his vehicle, breaching Equality Act legislation and leaving the dog owner “distressed and concerned”.

Town hall officers have refused to grant him a licence as it emerged he had been operating without one when the incident occurred in March.

Charity Guide Dogs said similar incidents happen with “shocking regularity” and is campaigning for tougher penalties for taxi drivers who flout the law.

The driver, who attended a licensing committee hearing earlier this month and answered questions put to him by elected members, was found to be “not a fit and proper person” to hold a Hackney Carriage licence, according to town hall minutes.

As part of its own new training initiative, Wigan Council is offering guidance on disability issues for taxi drivers and Guide Dogs said it was pleased with the town hall’s swift action.

Zoe Foster, guide dogs engagement officer, said: “The Guide Dogs charity is campaigning for better enforcement of the law, tougher penalties for taxi drivers who turn away guide dog owners and disability equality training for all taxi and minicab drivers.

“We are very pleased with the swift action taken by Wigan Licensing Enforcement Team and welcome the outcome.

“The guide dog owner was newly qualified with his first dog and the taxi refusal led to a lot of distress and concerns about using taxis in the future.

“Refusals happen to people with shocking regularity because they are accompanied by a guide dog.

“It’s not only illegal, it knocks people’s confidence and stops them doing the everyday things that most people take for granted.”

Karl Battersby, Director of Economy and Environment said: “The safety of passengers carried by licensed drivers is of utmost importance and both private and hackney carriage drivers play a pivotal role in helping protect disabled and vulnerable adults.

“On this occasion the driver involved clearly breached the guidelines by refusing to take a blind person’s assistance dog in the vehicle.

“It has since transpired that at the time of investigation, the driver was operating the vehicle with an expired licence.

“After reviewing the evidence, the committee refused to grant the application for the renewal of a licence on the grounds that the driver was not a fit and proper person to hold a Hackney Carriage driver’s licence.

“Wigan Council’s licensing team have arranged for more than 1,000 licensed drivers to attend a mandatory training session to raise awareness of the difficulties encountered by disabled passengers and to address drivers’ concerns when carrying disabled or vulnerable adults.”

Ms Foster added: “Following our recent Access All Areas lobby of Parliament, we are very pleased a bill is to be introduced to make sure all taxi and minicab drivers have disability equality training.”