Leigh Hutchings, chairman of Disability Watford, pictured with his assistance dog
The chairman of a disability group has raised concern over taxi companies in Watford being “reluctant” to pick him up with his assistance dog.
Leigh Hutchings, who is a member of Disability Watford, say he feels “let down” that he is often asked whether he has his guide dog with him when he orders a taxi.
Mr Hutchings, who has been a guide dog owner for 20 years due to being registered blind, believes taxi services should be more “accessible” for people who rely on service dogs.
He said: “When I try to order a taxi, they ask me if I have my assistance dog with me or make me wait until there is another available driver willing to drive me home.
“There needs to be improvements made to taxi services in Watford. It is quite frightening that people with disabilities may not leave their homes because they are afraid there will be no transport to take them back.
“Since getting my assistance dog, I noticed how much difference it makes to travelling around town every day, as it adds so much time onto my journey. It is not good enough.”
Shafiq Ahmed, chairman of Watford Licensed Taxi Drivers Associaton, said taxi drivers caught refusing people with assistance dogs would be “condemned”.
He said: “I can only apologise to the Watford Disability group on behalf of the trade if any taxi driver refused assistance guide dog job. This does not reflect in anyway the majority of the well behaved competent taxi drivers.
“However disabled groups need to be informed that there are Private Hire & Uber cars who also work in Watford and they should not be confused as taxis.
“All Taxi drivers are fully aware it is an offence to refuse a guide dog job, although some drivers have issues due to allergies. I will further inform and highlight this issue to all drivers on our forum.”