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Ipswich: Blind couple speak of outrage at cab driver refusing their fare because of their guide dogs

14:56 28 February 2013

Martin Roberts and Clare Burman were refused access to a taxi due to their guide dogs, Vikki and Malone

Martin Roberts and Clare Burman were refused access to a taxi due to their guide dogs, Vikki and Malone

Archant

A BLIND couple today sent a stark message to cab drivers in Ipswich after being refused a ride because they had their guide dogs with them.

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Exception not the rule

THIS is the exception, not the rule.

That was the message from Ipswich Borough Council, praising the “excellent service” of the majority of taxi drivers in the town.

Councillor Sandy Martin, Fairer Ipswich portfolio holder told The Star: “The vast majority of taxi drivers give an excellent service to all people in Ipswich.

“We cannot allow anyone to infect the relationship between drivers and their passengers, whether those passengers are disabled, from an ethnic minority, of a different faith or for any other discriminatory reason.”

Meanwhile Mr Roberts made it clear, he does not hold the taxi firm responsible.

He added: “The taxi company, Ipswich Cabs 289 have been brilliant.

“They were very supportive right from the start and we have no grumble with them whatsoever.”

In one of the first formal prosecutions of its kind in the UK, cab driver Metin Akin has been fined by South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to refusing to transport Martin Roberts and Clare Burman, 33, to their home in Bridgewater Road, Ipswich.

The driver said he was worried about the leather seats in his Volkswagen Passat.

Outraged Mr Roberts contacted Ipswich Borough Council’s licensing team last July after Akin refused their fare.

The couple, accompanied by their faithful labradors Vikki and Malone, had been enjoying an evening with family. But the night turned sour when the cab driver refused their custom.

Mr Roberts, 35, who has been blind since birth, told The Star it wasn’t the first time he has encountered such discrimination in the town.

“Unless a driver has a medical certificate which proves they are allergic to dogs, it is against the law for them to refuse a guide dog,” he said.

“All licensed drivers have to sign a sort of contract, the terms of carriage, and by doing so they agree to abide by the Equality Act 2010.”

But he said he has encountered drivers flouting the law on several occasions.

“This has happened before in Ipswich – only a handful of times in the six years I have lived here but enough to make me think enough is enough.

“We wanted to send a message to other cab drivers that it is not acceptable to treat people like this.

“It was really embarrassing, more than anything. And humiliating – imagine if you were denied a cab ride because of your sex or the colour of your skin? It is discrimination just the same.

“The dogs don’t go on the seats, they sit in the foot wells and are really well behaved.

“The message to other cab drivers is if you refuse a blind person you are breaking the law. I am speaking out because there may be other blind people who don’t feel confident enough to do so.

“It goes beyond discrimination, it is breaking the law.”

Mr Roberts said he does not hold the cab firm responsible.

He added: “The company, Ipswich Cabs 289, have been brilliant.

“They were very supportive right from the start and we have no grumble with them whatsoever.”

Ipswich borough councillor Sandy Martin said the vast majority of cab drivers in the town provided an “excellent service”.

Mr Martin, Fairer Ipswich portfolio holder, added: “We cannot allow anyone to infect the relationship between drivers and their passengers, whether those passengers are disabled, from an ethnic minority, of a different faith or for any other discriminatory reason.”

n Have you faced similar discrimination? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email starletters@archant.co.uk

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8 comments

  • No, company did everything possible to help. My problem was with the driver not 289.

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    Martin Roberts

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • As a regular taxi user I would be quite happy to sit on the seats after these beautiful dogs, indeed I would be happy to have them sit on my lap! I am less happy about using the cabs after the drunks and drug addicts have been in there! Unless this cab driver turns away business, he will have had some pretty disgusting human beings in that car, so his refusal of the dogs is absolutely disgraceful.

    Report this comment

    Jane Summerfield

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • I disagree with the fact that 289 have been brilliant as I have used them once and he sat outside in his car reving his engine. Also the customers could not of been happy with the companies handling of this if they needed to take the matter further

    Report this comment

    an idea

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • What we really needed here wasn't a photo of the victims, but a photo of the taxi driver, so we can see who the low-life that would do something like this is. And all refuse to get in his taxi because we don't want to be driven around by someone who thinks it's OK to discriminate against people because of their disabilities.

    Report this comment

    beerlover

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • This very story was picked up by a global site, and it was commented that the Ipswich Star has questionable moderation practices, only allowing certain viewpoints. It has been noticed, dear moderators.

    Report this comment

    Winston Barrington Jr.

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • Muslims including Muslim taxi drivers consider dogs as unclean. Of course to mention that is very non- PC but the offended party in this case is the blind couple.

    Report this comment

    Steve Blake

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • Kind words Jane but our dogs aren't let on seats. In fact this is a big NONO in the world of guide dogs.

    Report this comment

    Martin Roberts

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • Kind words Jane but our dogs aren't let on seats. In fact this is a big NONO in the world of guide dogs.

    Report this comment

    Martin Roberts

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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