Taxi drivers in south Wales, in the UK, are under fire for refusing to take passengers without good reason. And there is only one allowable good reason, according to Mathab Khan, the chair of the Cardiff Hackney Cabs Association, who said that the only time a cab driver would refuse a fare was if the passenger was unfit to travel, because he or she had had too much to drink.
However, two drivers have been accused of refusing to accept as passengers two different people with disabilities – with excessive drinking not being an issue in either case.
The first driver has since been fined for refusing to take a guide dog in his taxi. Cardiff magistrates found Nader Rohbani-Eivazi guilty of breaking the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. He was fined £200 with £415 in costs.
The second driver is being investigated by Carmarthenshire Council, the taxi licensing authority after a woman with multiple sclerosis complained that she was refused a taxi to a meeting of the MS Society because the journey was too short.
Barbara Stensland, 43, from Cardiff, went to Carmarthen on August 5 but when she tried to get a taxi from the railway station to the venue, less than one mile (1.6km) away, she was refused.
She said: “I went to the first taxi in the queue outside the station, I told him where I wanted to go. He said ‘No, I’m not taking you.’ So he pointed me helpfully in the right direction and told me to walk.”
That investigation is still under way but the council has promised that it will take “appropriate action”.
In the first case, blind Janice Powers, 49, was stunned when the taxi driver Rohbani-Eivazi refused her fare because she had her guide dog leading her way.
Janice, of Carmarthen, told how she was with three friends after attending the launch of a diversity and equality initiative at the National Assembly in Cardiff. She went to the taxi rank at Mermaid Quay in Cardiff Bay to catch a cab to the railway station – but was refused.
She said: “It was late and we were cold and wanted to get home but when we approached the lead hackney carriage for a lift the driver just said: ‘Four people but no dog.’
Janice, who is blind and suffers from arthritis, protested that he was breaking the law by refusing to take her guide dog in the taxi.
“We were flabbergasted – especially as he had disabled stickers on display.
“But when we pointed out that he would be breaking the law if he refused to take my guide dog he just said ‘Take me to court’, she added.
So she did! Janice contacted the planning and licensing office of Cardiff Council, which took out an enforcement action against the driver and provided a solicitor to take him to court.
Janice was also supported in her action by Cardiff, Vales and Valleys Institute for the Blind, RNIB Cymru and Guide Dogs for the Blind.