Taxi driver refuses to take blind man and wheelchair user in latest St Albans discrimination case

George Street, St Albans.

George Street, St Albans. - Credit: Archant

A taxi driver has refused to take a blind man and a wheelchair user after their party had already paid for the cab ride.

Former president of the Chamber of Commerce David Clarke, who is blind, and former town councillor Michael Weaver, who uses a wheelchair, were dining with the chamber’s executive director Lisa Bates-Wallis, who called and paid ahead for a taxi to take them home.

They stood on the pavement as the Gold Line Taxi pulled up, but the driver was not parallel with the wheelchair and when he was asked to move forward to make him parallel, he told Ms Bates-Wallis: “I’m not dealing with this”, and drove off.

“I’m still fuming”, Ms Bates-Wallis said. “It’s outrageous as the two of them are quite vulnerable and all they need is to be treated normally and not to feel like they are a problem.”

She immediately phoned the taxi company who sent another car to pick them up.

Last year, the government activated sections of the Equality Act after St Albans MP Anne Main complained about taxis discriminating against wheelchair users in the city.

Deputy head of community services for St Albans council Maria Stagg said: “If we received a complaint about this from the people involved, we would of course investigate it fully.

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“This process would involve collecting written statements from any witnesses and interviewing the licence holder in question to determine their version of events.

“If a complaint is upheld, then action can be taken against the licence holder.

“Under the Equality Act, licensed taxi drivers using wheelchair-accessible vehicles must not discriminate against wheelchair users. They should also give them assistance when required.

“An exemption certificate may only be given to drivers who have provided evidence that they are medically unable to assist passengers in wheelchairs. This should be displayed on the vehicle.”

Part-owner of Gold Line Taxis Aneel Ahmed said: “I am still trying to get hold of him, but from what I understand he does normally take wheelchair users.

“He might have had a problem with his ramp, but was not very articulate.

“We have contacted the customer and apologised. I do not know the full details, but this is not acceptable. Fair enough he has a problem with his ramp, but he should have taken time to explain.”