City Wide Taxi in St. John’s has been fined for discriminating against a woman with a visual impairment, after she was told she could not get in a cab with her guide dog.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission ruled that City Wide Taxi failed to provide service to Anne Malone because she was accompanied by a guide dog.
“First of all, I was really shocked and in a state of disbelief,” said Malone, who suffers from macular degeneration and requires a guide dog to get around.
“It’s the first time I have ever experienced discrimination and it is not a good feeling.”
‘I was really shocked and in a state of disbelief.’ – Anne Malone
In April 2013, Malone attempted to obtain a ride from three separate taxis at a stand on Adelaide Street in downtown St. John’s.
Two drivers denied her service. One of the drivers complained of allergies while the other was accused of using offensive language when referring to her guide dog.
“He told me in a very sort of belligerent and … intimidating way that he had allergies and I wasn’t getting in his car,” said Malone, of the first driver, adding she also attempted to show the driver her service dog identification card.
“So I approached the second car, that driver told me in a very crude fashion, that no dogs were getting in his car which had just been cleaned.”
She said a third driver abruptly drove away from the cab stand when she was approached the vehicle, but she can’t be sure if it was because of her service dog or if the driver was dispatched to another call.
After contacting the taxi’s dispatcher, who was apologetic, she was offered another cab but Malone declined and walked home.
“I was so angry and in such a state of, just shock, just this adrenalized state that I rejected his offer,” Malone told CBC.
Malone said that as a visually impaired person there needs to be a level of trust when you step into a taxi.
“I trust that driver to take me where I ask her or him to bring me … I trust them to tell me the truth about what the fare is, I trust them to give me the correct change if I’m paying with cash,” said Malone.
‘There are laws in this province that clearly protect individuals from this type of discrimination.’ – Carey Majid
“For me, that experience completely undermined that trust — that’s what that event did for me.”
She added that in St. John’s there is nothing in a taxi to identify a driver to the customer.
Malone contacted the company’s administrative office, but got no response from management. She then decided to file a formal complaint with the commission.
“Access to the public realm is a human right, not just for people with disabilities but for any person in out society,” said Malone.
“It might seem like, oh this is a small thing, a cab driver wouldn’t let her into his or her cab with her dog — it is much, much bigger than that.”
Of the two drivers who denied service, one complained of allergies while the other was accused of using offensive language when referring to the guide dog. (CBC)
Fine and training
City Wide has been ordered to pay Malone $5,000 in compensation and to undergo training to accommodate people with disabilities, especially those with poor vision.
“There are laws in this province that clearly protect individuals from this type of discrimination and no person with a disability should have to experience a situation like this,” said Carey Majid, the commission’s executive director, in a statement issued Tuesday.
“Hopefully this decision will raise awareness and prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.”
Malone believes that most people do not intend to be exclusive or discriminatory, but is happy that this decision requires training to be provided to staff.
‘It is as valid as a wheelchair or a hearing aid, it’s just alive.’ – Anne Malone
“Regardless of what kind of dog it is, if it is a service dog, it is an assistive being — it is as valid as a wheelchair or a hearing aid, it’s just alive,” said Malone.
“It’s a very valid, and very effective therapeutic tool in a person’s life who is dealing with a permanent disability.”