Deaf woman late for wedding reception after minicab driver refuses to take hearing dog

A deaf woman was late to a wedding reception after a minicab driver refused to take her hearing dog into his car unless she paid an extra £45.

Sophie Biebuyck, from Essex, was left “upset and embarrassed” after the minicab driver refused to take her with her assistance dog Rusty.

Driver Ali Ates, 65, of Clapton, demanded she paid an £45 fare to take the dog, which Ms Diebuyck refused to do.

She was late to the wedding reception, Transport for London (TfL) said.

Mr Ates was fined £500 and ordered to pay £988 in court costs after being found guilty of refusing to carry a passenger who wished to be accompanied by an assistance dog.

He was handed the fine at City of London Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, April 19.

Ms Biebuyck said: “Being denied access to the minicab on the day of my friend’s wedding was extremely upsetting and embarrassing

“My hearing dog Rusty is not just a loyal companion; he’s my ears, alerting me to important sounds and sirens. Without Rusty by my side I would not be as independent as I am today.”

TfL has been prosecuting private hire drivers for not accepting assistance dogs since 2015, with 21 people prosecuted since then.

It is estimated almost 1,000 people use hearing dogs across the country.

Angie Platten, of trainer Hearing Dog’s for Deaf People, said: “To be refused access to travel using a minicab can be a highly frustrating and distressing position for a deaf person.

“They often struggle with communication and can feel abandoned with no ability to contact the minicab provider to explain or rebook due to their inability to hear on the phone.”

In 2016, TfL launched a campaign to try and stop taxi and private hire drivers refusing to let people into their cabs with assistance pets.

Helen Chapman, TfL’s general manager of taxi and private hire, said: “We take a zero tolerance approach to drivers refusing to carry passengers accompanied by assistance dogs and we encourage customers to report any incidents to us, so we can investigate and take the appropriate regulatory action.”

Source: http://www.standard.co.uk

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