Council tests taxis for treatment of visually impaired

Taking a taxi can be a challenge for blind and partially sighted passengers so Broxbourne Council and a national charity teamed up to test the local service.

For visually impaired people, especially those who struggle on public transport, a decent taxi service is often crucial for their everyday lives. It gives a freedom and control to go where they please but it can often be testing.

Licensed drivers are required by law to carry guide dogs and their owners unless they have a medical exemption. Sadly, some visually impaired passengers have still experienced drivers refusing to pick them up.

This adds to the difficulty of finding a taxi when a driver calls to say they’re outside, ducking to get inside the vehicle and the stress of caring for a dog.

The Council’s licensing officers want to make sure a good service is being offered to people. They recently carried out an exercise, with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), to assess the local service given by taxis and private hire vehicles to blind and partially sighted passengers.

There were no refusals by drivers in the Borough of Broxbourne to carry the RNIB representative and his dog during the six test rides that were carried out at a taxi rank in Hoddesdon and from phone bookings.

However, improvements could still be made. The assessor felt that drivers might benefit from being given extra advice and guidance on how to assist people entering and exiting vehicles as well as offering help with the next stage of their journey when they’re dropped off. To help with this, guidance issued by the RNIB for licensed drivers will now be distributed to the trade.

Louise Jenkins, a Community Engagement Officer at Guide Dogs in Herts, Beds and Essex, said: “We were delighted to take part in the testing of taxi access for guide dog owners. Overall, we felt the day went well with no refusals from any of the drivers.

“This event has enabled us to work alongside the licensing authority to remind drivers of their legal obligations to carry assistance dogs.”

She added: “The guide dog owner involved would like to reassure and encourage all drivers to offer help to passengers with sight loss.”

Anyone who would like to comment about their experience of taxis and private hire vehicles can email Broxbourne Council’s licensing officer on taxi@broxbourne.gov.uk or call 01992 785555 Ext 5725.