Posted by admin on August 10th, 2015
Source: Leicester Mercury
A taxi company which refused to carry a blind passenger because he was accompanied by his guide dog has been fined £1,000 with more than £700 costs.
Prahlad Pandya (52) of Gwencole Crescent, Braunstone, owner of A1 Highfields Associates Ltd, also known as Highfields Taxis, was dealt with in absence at Leicester Magistrates’ Court, of failing to accept a booking by a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog in Leicester on January 30 this year.
Nicola Birch, from Leicester City Council, told the court that two taxis had been booked to take Mahomed-Abraar Khatri from Leicester Railway Station for an interview at BBC Radio Leicester and back after the interview.
When the interview, due to finish at 3.30pm, overran by 20 minutes and the return taxi failed to arrive, Mr Khatri rang the company to ask why. “He was told that all the Indian drivers had gone home for the day and none would pick him up because of the dog.” Ms Birch said he had been taken back by another company, Circle Taxis.
The council received a complaint on February 5 and checked that the booking stated “Mo is blind and will be travelling with a guide dog.” When interviewed by the council on April 9 Pandya said he had stepped in to help because the usual bookings-handler had gone home ill. “I was confused and worried about Dave.”
The magistrates imposed the maximum fine, £1,000, with £665.50 costs and £100 victim surcharge, with a 28-day collection order.
Mike Broster, head of regulatory services for Leicester City Council said: “Disabled people may rely on the taxi services and the providers have a legal duty to comply with it. “The message I would give is that any people with disabilities who have difficulties such as this to come to us.
“There are legal requirements for taxi operators and they generally comply with them. “If not we will be there to ensure they will comply.”
After the hearing Pandya said: “Basically I did not refuse to take the man and his dog but did not have any drivers except one who was a bit awkward and would not take the dog.
“It was just one man who is self-employed, not an employee. What I said to the customer was ‘Can you hold your horses, wait a bit until I can get another driver. “I would have pleaded guilty and, with the fine and costs, will just have to pay them.”
Steve Payne, Community Services Manager at local sight loss charity Vista, said: “This case highlights the importance of educating people about sight loss, and the need to break down the social inclusion barriers that surround it.
“Being visually impaired affects people in different ways and it’s crucial to be able to provide the right support where needed. Visual impairment awareness training for individuals and businesses is just one of many services that Vista provides.”