CVI Assistive Technology Specialist, Liz Bottner and her dog guide.
A cab is supposed to be a quick, easy way to get from Point A to Point B--or is it? For a person traveling with a dog guide, this is sadly not always the case. As someone who has chosen to partner with a dog guide, I have had many interesting experiences in trying to hail a cab.
Such experiences have ranged from the cab driver asking, “Does your dog bite?” as I enter the cab, to cabs whizzing by me with no indication of stopping. Or even the cab stopping and the driver flatly refusing service to my dog guide, but informing me that I am more than welcome to ride. I am most often confused by this latter experience and left to wonder what the driver expects me to do with my dog in saying that I can ride, but he cannot. Every once in a while, I will have the pleasant, positive experience of being able to ride in a cab without any incident whatsoever, as it should be.
When in the situation of being denied access to a cab, there are several things to be aware of and keep in mind. First and foremost, you, the passenger, are not in the wrong and have as much right to be in that vehicle as does someone who is not traveling with a service animal.
Second, it is a good idea to be familiar with the local and/or state and federal law as it pertains to service animals. Dog guides are permitted to accompany their handler in any place or service that is open to the public; transport by taxi included.
Third, should the situation warrant the help of law enforcement, it is useful to know the local numbers for such officials. In situations of being denied taxicab access, it can sometimes be frustrating in terms of deciding how to go forward and handle the ordeal.
I have found myself, more often than not, more focused on wanting or needing to get to my destination over any other aspect. In my experience, the lack of knowledge on the part of the cab driver comes down to a lack of education on their part in terms of the law as it pertains to customers with service animals.
My first recourse in such a situation is to explain to the cab driver that I have a dog guide and is legally permitted to ride with me in the cab. More often than not, though, this does absolutely nothing to mitigate the situation and I am forced to resort to another tactic. At such times, I will tell the driver that I will not be riding in the cab and will take my business elsewhere. Then I will proceed to call the cab company to inform them of the events that took place and request that another cab is sent out. It is helpful at this point to obtain the number written on the side of the cab to give to dispatch, although this is not always doable. Knowing the cab company’s name is also not as easy to determine for a person with little to no vision, but this can be solved by calling for a cab instead of trying to flag one down off of the street.
Admittedly, calling ahead may or may not be an option given the circumstances in the first place. When calling ahead is an option, though, I will sometimes make it known that I am traveling with a dog guide in the hope that an awkward confrontation will be avoided. Advanced knowledge of the service animal is not required, however, and such disclosure is left to the individual dog guide handler.
This issue of being denied access to taxis is unfortunately quite widespread. In helping to combat the issue, I feel that it is important that we know our rights as travelers with service animals and be willing to speak out and educate against this form of discrimination. We are our own best advocates. Additionally, the dog guide schools along with dog guide advocacy organizations, such as Guide Dog Users, Inc. and The National Association of Guide Dog Users are also available as a resource for more information about rights and best practices.
The more you know about accessing cabs with a dog guide, the better prepared you can be. Happy travels to humans and canines alike!
For more information contact the following organizations:
Guide Dog Users, Inc.
The National Association of Guide Dog Users