Blind man “left in limbo” as Chesterfield taxi driver turns away guide dog

A blind Chesterfield man says a taxi driver “got away with” discriminating against him when he refused to carry his guide dog twice.

Sunday, 5th June 2022, 9:36 pm

Daniel Birch, 24, says he feels “left in limbo” after a court dropped his damages action against Chesterfield's City Taxis following two incidents when the same driver turned him away.

On both occasions the driver, who suffers from asthma, said he was exempt from carrying dogs, despite having no exemption certificate as is required by law.

The Equality Act states drivers have a legal duty to carry guide dogs with their owners unless they have been granted an exemption certificate.

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Daniel Birch with Labrador guide dog Nancy

Computer technician Daniel was en-route to a hospital appointment when the driver arrived at his home saying “I don’t take dogs, I’ve got asthma”.

While raising a complaint with the firm, Daniel was told the driver had a doctor’s note and he should complain to the council - which he finally did after the same driver again refused him a lift with Labrador Nancy a second time.

When Daniel, who suffers with retinal dystrophy, complained to Chesterfield Borough Council’s licensing department he was told it was the taxi firm’s responsibility to train its drivers on disability issues.

However because the driver had applied for an exemption certificate after his run-ins with Daniel, no action would be taken against him.

Daniel Birch says the failed civil case against City Taxis has left him in "limbo"

Daniel said: “If you ask any guide dog owner they’ll all tell you that they’ve experienced this but I have to say I’ve never experienced this quite as bad as in my hometown, Chesterfield.

“It’s disheartening for me that my own hometown is the place where I experience this the most.”

Daniel went on to raise a civil case for damages against City Taxis.

However his case had been “set aside” by the court due to “multiple problems” with the serving of the case.

He said: “For me it was never about the money - the biggest thing I wanted was City Taxis to take account for their actions.”

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City Taxis spokesman Russ Wilkinson, described Daniel’s claim as “completely false and highly insulting to what we stand for as a company”.

Mr Wilkinson added that the driver concerned not only risked an asthma attack but also “potentially fatal chronic allergic reactions”.

He said this had been verified via medical professionals as well as Chesterfield Borough Council – which subsequently provided an exemption certificate.

The spokesman added: “It is clear that the driver’s refusal to transport the passenger was absolutely nothing to do with discrimination and this was clear from the start.

"It is obviously not safe or practical for the driver of a taxi to carry passengers with dogs if this could affect his driving and put his life and that of his passengers at risk.”

He added that Daniel had continued to use City Taxis since legal proceedings began – 34 times in total.

“The above clearly demonstrates we have done nothing but provide him a service in good faith and his allegation that we in anyway discriminate against him is completely false and highly insulting to what we stand for as a company,” said Mr Wilkinson.

“The fact that Mr Birch’s legal claim for damages was unsuccessful does not in anyway change the fact that his allegations were completely invalid and without basis.”

Chesterfield Borough Council and the Law Centre have both been approached for a comment but were unable to discuss Daniel’s case.

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