I am aware of the problems that blind people and partially sighted people can experience in accessing taxis and minicabs.
The Equality Act 2010 made it a criminal offence to refuse carriage to an assistance dog at no extra cost, unless drivers have a medical exemption.
While this Act was an important step forward in tackling discrimination, the Guide Dogs charity has highlighted that there are still cases where guide dog owners are being refused access. This is not only illegal, but can also damage people’s confidence and independence. It is clear that there is still more to be done to end this shameful discrimination.
At the General Election in June 2017, The Labour manifesto committed to reform the legislation governing taxi and private hire services, introducing national standards to guarantee safety and accessibility. Unfortunately Labour did not win the election.
In May 2014, the Law Commission recommended that holders of taxi and private hire driver licences should be required to comply with the Equality Act as a condition of the licence. After more than three years since the Law Commission’s review of taxi and private hire services, the Government has still not responded to this report.
However, in November 2016, the Government did commit to put a package of measures together to support disabled people’s access to these vehicles and, before the General Election, it committed to consult on revised best practice for licensing authorities.
The Government said that this would include strengthened recommendations on how authorities respond to alleged instances of assistance dog refusal, and also on the provision of disability awareness training for taxi and private hire vehicle drivers. It is not clear when this consultation will be launched but I will follow developments on this closely.
I will continue to call for action to address the barriers that people with sight loss can face in using taxis and minicabs. I will also press for enforcement of the Equality Act to be improved.