Taxi drivers who refused to pick up a blind passenger accompanied by a guide dog have been given formal warnings and points on their taxi licence.
Several drivers refused to pick up the man, with several refusing the booking, and one even driving off when he saw the guide dog.
After receiving the complaint from The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, South Northamptonshire Council (SNC) interviewed each driver under caution and issued them all with a final warning, as well as nine penalty points on their Private Hire Drivers’ Licences, which has a 12-point limit before they are either suspended or revoked.
They were also instructed to attend an equality training session which covered the carriage of guide dogs.
In September 2015, Colin Bradford was leaving Milton Keynes Hospital (pictured) with his son when a cab driver declined to take the booking because he was also accompanied by his guide dog.
Five further drivers from the same firm subsequently refused the booking via an electronic booking system and one driver drove off when he saw the guide dog at the pick-up point.
Dermot Bambridge, portfolio holder for environmental services, said: “Disabled people often rely on taxi services and our policy clearly states that taxi drivers cannot refuse to carry a passenger with an assistance dog.
“Taxi and private hire drivers can only refuse to do so if they have been issued with an exemption certificate by us due to allergies or other medical conditions, and they are displaying this in their vehicle.
“It is therefore unacceptable that the drivers discriminated against the passenger without reasonable cause.
“This is a prosecutable offence that could result in a driver losing their licence and heavy fines, so we want the message to be clear that we will take necessary action against any taxi drivers unclear of the law.”
An updated taxi licensing policy, which has been agreed by the SNC cabinet and is due for public consultation this month, will require all new and existing drivers to undergo safeguarding training.
Joel Young, engagement officer for Guide Dogs in Milton Keynes, said: “This incident highlights the need for compulsory disability equality training for all drivers when registering.
“People that are vision impaired, and rely on a guide dog when out-and-about, often use taxis to help them get to and from hospital appointments, their place of work and other social occasions.
“Refusals like this are very distressing and can damage a person’s confidence.
“I hope this incident encourages drivers and licensing authorities to take steps to understand and be aware of the law surrounding the carriage of assistance dogs.”