Transport for London (TfL) has launched a campaign to highlight the rights of assistance dog owners when using private hire vehicles. By law private hire drivers must accept a passenger with an accredited assistance dog and at no extra cost on their fare.
The campaign, which is specifically targeting the private hire trade, seeks to educate drivers and operators on their obligations and to highlight to passengers with assistance dogs the rights they have, including that their dogs must be allowed in the passenger compartment with the owner.
The campaign comes as TfL is taking action to prosecute drivers that do not comply with the law. In the last six months, TfL has successfully prosecuted five drivers and three operators for refusing to take assistance dogs, has eight prosecutions pending and is currently investigating eight more cases.
More than 7,000 people are assisted by dogs trained and accredited by the seven charities that come under the Assistance Dogs UK umbrella organisation. While Guide Dogs is the best known provider of assistance dogs, there is a wide range of other charities helping users with a variety of conditions. These include Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Medical Detection Dogs for people with complex health issues and Dogs for Good, which assist people with physical disabilities or children with autism.
Helen Chapman, TfL’s general manager of Taxi and Private Hire, said, “We are committed to making our services accessible to all our customers. This includes ensuring that our licensees are aware of their responsibilities regarding passengers who require the vital service that assistance dogs provide. The education campaign, along with the increased compliance activity we will be carrying out to support it, will make a real, positive difference to the way people can get around the Capital.”
The campaign has been welcomed by groups representing assistance dog owners as an important step in ensuring that transport services in London are universally accessible and welcoming.
Rob Harris, engagement manager for Guide Dogs London, said, “Being denied access to a taxi or private hire vehicle is not just illegal, but can knock the confidence of our guide dog owners and be deeply upsetting. With TfL’s fantastic campaign, we can now make sure that message gets out to every single licensed driver so that there is no excuse and that guide dog owners are entitled to the same freedom of movement as everyone else.”
In addition to the new campaign for drivers, TfL will be stepping up compliance activity on private hire drivers and operators reported to be refusing assistance dog owners or asking for an additional fare. A further campaign, to educate taxi and private hire drivers on their responsibilities to wheelchair users, will launch later this year.