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Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 13:57 GMT
Guide dog taxi controversy

Lords want taxi rules to come in soon

There have been renewed calls to speed up moves to give guide dog owners the right to take their animals into taxis

The 1995 Disability Discrimination Act says that cabbies who are not asthmatic or allergic to the animals cannot refuse to carry guide dogs and hearing dogs, or charge extra for it.

But the legislation has yet to be put into effect, and campaigners including the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, say that blind and deaf people are still being refused taxi rides.

Junior transport minister Lord Whitty told the House of Lords that by March, consultation on measures to prosecute drivers who refuse to carry dogs for the disabled should begin.

He said that taxi rules had to be "unravelled" to ensure that the new legislation was "robust and observed by taxi drivers throughout the land".

Cabbies can currently refuse to take guide dogs
He added: "It is important that we do protect those taxi drivers who have a particular condition which dogs might aggravate - particularly asthmatics."

Crossbencher Baroness Masham of Ilton, who is disabled, said that guide dogs were "so well trained that they are mostly better behaved than a person".

Spokesman for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, Tony Searle, said that campaigners would like to see the Act brought into effect as soon as possible.

And he said that they want the section to be extended to cover mini cabs as well as licensed taxis.

He told BBC News Online: "Disabled people, and blind and partially-sighted people in particular, are heavily reliant on taxis and mini cabs.

Hard of hearing people can also use dogs to help them
"Other forms of public transport can be difficult to use. Train providers are usually quite good, but buses can be almost impossible.

"Guide dogs and hearing dogs are indeed extremely well trained, and pose no health risk because of this."

A RNIB spokesman said that currently it is not illegal for a taxi driver to refuse to carry a guide dog.

He added: "We do hear cases of blind people being refused when they telephone taxi companies and say they have a guide dog.

"We also hear of cases where people have hailed a cab and had to argue about getting the dog in the cab. It is humiliating for blind people."

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See also:
24 May 99 |  UK
Commuting: A lottery for the visually impaired
14 Jan 99 |  UK Politics
View from the gallery
30 Sep 99 |  UK
Businesses 'not ready' for disability laws
25 May 99 |  Health
Blind find difficulties accessing public transport
24 Mar 99 |  Health
Taking the trauma out of blindness

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