A blind man says he was left humiliated after a Preston taxi driver refused to transport him because he had a guide dog.
Psychotherapy student Robert Greggor, who lives on Brook Street, told the taxi operator he had his assistance dog Angel with him - but when cabbie Shahzad Ahmed arrived to take his fare at a bowling alley, he refused to take them home.
Now, the cabbie has been fined for breaching equality laws and has been warned by Preston Council’s Taxi Licensing department about his future conduct.
But Robert, 25, who moved to Preston from the Isle of Man to study a degree at the University of Central Lancashire, says the incident left him upset and humiliated.
He said: “I was more embarrassed by the fact it showed I can’t be independent. I’ve been determined to be as independent as I can all my life.”
After the incident another cab was eventually called from a different firm to assist him. Campaigners say experiences like Robert’s are under reported, despite recent laws making it illegal for cabbies, restaurants and shops to refuse assistance dogs.
Robert was diagnosed with the progressive condition retinitis pigmentosa aged seven. Between seven and 17 it progressed to tunnel vision. He lost the sight in one eye as a teenager and lost most of the sight in his other eye by the time he was 25.
Robert is in a university society which has social outings to the MFA bowling alley in the city.
He said: “My previous dog Wilma retired in 2016 after falling ill with pancreatic cancer and now lives with my mum on the Isle of Man. She always sat there quietly at the alley. But my new dog, Angel, doesn’t take to the noise well so I decided to take her home. When the taxi driver turned up he just said: ‘No dogs’.
“I told him it was an offence under the Equality Act. I rang the taxi firm and they said they had informed him a guide dog was with me.”
Frustrated, Robert reported the incident to Guide Dogs who passed it on to Preston Council’s licensing team
He said: “It was very upsetting being refused a taxi because of my guide dog. I’ve owned two guide dogs since February 2013, but this was my first refusal.”
Ahmed, 33, of Great Townley Street, Preston, was found guilty of flouting equality laws at a hearing before Preston Magistrates’ Court and must pay a £60 fine, £330 prosecution costs and a £30 victim surcharge.
He also received a written warning from Preston City Council’s Taxi Licensing department.
Robert said: “I think it is just. I didn’t want him to lose his bread and butter but it sends a message to other people who flout the law.”
Cabinet member for planning and regulation, Coun Peter Moss, said: “This is the second time in the past 18 months that Preston City Council has brought a successful prosecution for the refusal of a guide dog, with the first resulting in the driver having his private hire driver’s licence suspended by the council.
“We hope that this latest prosecution will send out a strong message that discrimination will not be tolerated and all disabled people have the same rights as everybody else to travel freely on public transport.”
Taxi driver Zabar Hussain became the first cabbie in Lancashire to be fined under the Equality Act for refusing to take passenger Cheryl Johnson, from Penwortham, and her guide dog Thelma.
The father-of-six, of Oozehead Lane, Blackburn, had to pay a £55 fine and his licence was suspended for a month.