Sefton Council’s Taxi Licensing Unit teamed up with the charity Guide Dogs to carry out a mystery shopping exercise involving different types of licensed drivers and vehicles across the borough.
The undercover operation was conducted using guide dog owners taking journeys with their animals while being closely monitored by Licensing Officers.
The operations come following a number of complaints from guide dog owners who say they have been refused entry into pre-booked vehicles when the driver realised they needed to travel with their guide dog.
A range of tests were carried out over two days on private hire pre-booked journeys and from Hackney vehicles waiting on taxi ranks in both north and south Sefton.
The results show that out of 12 planned journeys, none of the drivers tested refused to carry a passenger with their guide dog.
Cllr Paulette Lappin, Cabinet Member for Regulatory, Compliance and Corporate Services, said: “We always welcome feedback from any passengers who use licensed taxis across the borough and are pleased that this important issue has been highlighted to us.
“Working with the volunteers and their dogs we were able to undertake realistic spot-checks to make sure that those with disabilities were being treated fairly and without discrimination.
“I am very pleased that all the Sefton taxi drivers we checked passed the test with flying colours – offering a professional and courteous service to their passengers on each test journey. Hopefully all licensed drivers in Sefton will follow suit in the future.”
Penny Williams from the Guide Dogs Charity said: “We would like to thank Sefton Council for undertaking this operation, which we hope will help raise awareness of access refusals being experienced by our guide dog owners.
“These incidents can have a profound effect on the confidence of our guide dog owners and can result in service users feeling anxious and reluctant to use taxis in the future.”
It is an offence under the Equality Act to refuse to carry a guide dog without the driver having first obtained a medical exemption certificate. The penalty for refusal is a maximum fine of £1,000 with the prospect of losing the taxi licence.
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