Published: 02/02/2012 09:36 - Updated: 02/02/2012 09:52

Muslim cab driver refuses guide dog in Letchworth

A BLIND man says he was refused use of a taxi in Letchworth because the Muslim driver would not allow his guide dog in the car.

Blind journalist Sean Dilley with Chipp
Blind journalist Sean Dilley with Chipp

Stevenage resident Sean Dilley had been at Letchworth Sports and Tennis Club in Muddy Lane with his guide dog Chipp on Sunday evening for a blind tennis demonstration.

Friends had organised for a taxi driver to pick up the 29-year-old after the event and take him back to Letchworth rail station.

But when the driver arrived shortly after 7pm to pick him up, he refused to let Sean and Chipp in the car.

"The driver turned up and said you are more than welcome but I’m not taking your dog," said Sean, who has been blind for 15 years.

"He said it was because he was a Muslim. I was horrified. This sort of thing happens all the time and it’s not acceptable."

The debate between Sean and the driver was caught on camera by a friend.

It has been reported that some strands of Islam teach that dogs should be avoided because the animal's saliva is considered to be impure.

Sean is a freelance broadcaster and parliamentary lobby correspondent for talkSPORT and last year made a film for the BBC’s Daily Politics show highlighting how many businesses and restaurants refused entry to guide dogs.

He called the taxi firm Gary’s Taxis to complain but was told the driver was within his rights.

But Sean believes that the driver was breaking disability discrimination law by refusing to take them and has reported the matter to North Herts Council, which licenses taxis in the district.

"I have a lot of energy and I know the law, and yet I find battling this sort of thing exhausting," he said.

"There must be many elderly or vulnerable people who can’t do that and just put up with it.

"Often it’s difficult to prove what happened though but this time we’ve got video evidence of what happened."

The Advertiser was unable to contact the taxi driver and Gary’s Taxis would only say "It’s a matter between the council and the driver."

Cllr Bernard Lovewell, the council’s portfolio holder for housing and environmental health, said: "We are currently investigating a complaint regarding an alleged incident with a North Herts licensed hackney carriage driver and a customer with a guide dog.

"Until we have concluded the investigation we cannot comment further.

"We would like to reassure residents that council-licensed taxi drivers should not refuse a blind or partially sighted person from getting in to their taxi on the grounds that they wish an assistance dog to accompany them."

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