Taxis Bypass the Blind

A NATIONAL disability support group wants Victorian law regarding taxis and guide dogs brought into line with other states.

The call follows complaints from a Boroondara Councillor who says he has been blatantly discriminated against when he is with his guide dog.

Glenferrie Ward Councillor Steve Hurd, who is vision impaired, said taxis drove passed him “six times in the space of four weeks” when they saw his guide dog Sandy.

A voice recognition app on his phone allows him to know when his ordered taxi was near.

“I don’t know if the taxi drivers realise this, but Sandy is a smart dog and he stands up whenever the taxi comes,” Cr Hurd said.

“The app tells you when a taxi is 200m away from you. I usually book through the app so I can keep track of where the taxi is.

“If someone like me who is a councillor and full-time worker has problems, imagine how difficult it is for someone who uses them infrequently.”

Cr Hurd said he believed some drivers don’t want small fares, some didn’t want dogs and some drivers had religious beliefs that meant they didn’t want dogs in their cars.

Blind Citizens Australia president Greg Madson, who also uses a guide dog, said BCA was working with Guide Dogs Victoria to get the State Government to amend laws allowing police and council officers to fine drivers who refuse to pick up a guide dog.

Mr Madson said laws exist in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Northern Territory that give enforcement officers the right to fine drivers.

He said in his native Western Australia strict guidelines also existed.

“However in Victoria, individual public transport organisations can fine their drivers up to $361, but other law enforcers cannot,” Mr Madson said.

“We want to continue working with Guide Dogs Victoria and the State Government to have this law changed.”

Guide Dogs Victoria chief executive Karen Hayes said the group was working with the taxi directorate to educate drivers about their legal obligation to accept fares from guide dog users. “We are committed to reinforcing the importance of social inclusion for our clients and have a designated role at GDV dedicated to public education within the public transport, food and hospitality industries,” Ms Hayes said.

Taxi Services Commission spokesman Jamie Collins said it was illegal for taxi drivers to refuse to carry passengers with guide dogs.

He said all drivers were trained in disability awareness before they were accredited.

“In the 2012/2013 financial year, the TSC received 15 complaints in relation to taxi drivers refusing to carry passengers because they have a guide dog. This was down from 22 complaints recorded in the previous year,” Mr Collins said.

“Every complaint the TSC receives is taken seriously and is investigated based on the information provided.”.

Disability services minister Mary Wooldridge said the Taxi Services Commission was rolling out reforms to the taxi and hire car industry.

“These reforms are aimed at lifting standards across the industry and providing more choice and better service for passengers,” Ms Wooldridge said.

“The introduction of the knowledge test (this year) will lift the standards across the taxi industry. It includes significant disability and diversity awareness testing, meaning that drivers are better trained and aware of passenger’s needs.”

Complaints can be lodged at or phone 1800 638 802.


Greg Gliddon
Progress Leader, Victoria