A WORTHING private hire driver refused to take a fare from a profoundly deaf couple because they were travelling with a hearing assistance dog.
Paul Tolchard called A2B Taxis to book a vehicle to take himself, his wife Sarah and her parents Cathleen, 71, and Richard Edwards, 73, to West Worthing railway station on March 28.
But when the driver arrived at the Edwards’ home in Leeward Road, Tarring, at 9am, he said that his insurance would be invalidated if he allowed Cleo, a small cocker spaniel/miniature poodle cross, which has been specially trained, to travel.
Mrs Tolchard, of Upton Road, Tarring, said: “We were going on a coach at the station to go down to Devon for a short break.
“When the driver turned up we loaded everything into the car and then he saw we were all getting in. I think he had assumed that my mum was seeing us off.
“He said he was not taking the dog and I told him it was like a guide dog and that I did not think he was able to refuse.
“He told us that it would be dangerous because the dog would be under his feet.
“Even though I told him that the harness was on so he would be attached to my mum so that would be impossible, he still said no.
“He did call another taxi, which arrived about 20 minutes later, and we were told that the first driver should not have done that.
“It came completely out of the blue, I was so shocked.
“We have never had any problems before and Cleo wears a jacket to say that she is a hearing dog.
“She has stayed in hotels, gone to restaurants and wherever mum goes Cleo goes with her.
“We have been told that it works in the same way as a guide dog in that the dogs can go anywhere.”
Mrs Tolchard said her parents, who have both been deaf since birth, were upset by what happened. “Mum shouted at the driver that what he was doing was against the law but unfortunately at the time I did not know what was right or wrong,” she said.
“I am really angry on my parents’ behalf. The driver was not rude but he was really adamant and it was totally unnecessary.
“Taxi drivers should know what the rules are so this does not happen again.”
Mrs Tolchard has since contacted Worthing Borough Council and the driver met with the council licensing officer last Wednesday.
She said: “When we looked further into it and looked at the paperwork that came when mum got the dog, we realised it was actually an offence to refuse to accept a booking or fare on behalf of a disabled person who has to take a hearing or assistance dog unless they have a medical condition to exclude them.”
John Roberts, of A2B Taxis, said: “This driver broke his licence from the council by refusing to take the hearing dog but because he is self-employed this matter has been dealt with by Worthing Borough Council.
“This driver was unaware that a hearing dog was in the same bracket as a guide dog and he should have taken the dog. However, when the booking was made there was no mention of a dog. It’s a horrible situation because he could have lost his licence.”
The council took no further action.