A PRIVATE hire driver has been suspended over claims he denied service to a Paralympic cycling champion and her guide dog at Edinburgh Airport.
Gold medallist Lora Fachie, 29, said she felt “disgusted” when the driver “flat out refused” to transport her and dog Tai into the city centre after jetting in on Wednesday evening.
The visually-impaired athlete, who won gold in the individual pursuit at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, received a swell of support after posting about her ordeal on Twitter.
She wrote: “Just had a taxi driver flat out refuse to take my #GuideDog from @EDI_Airport not a nice welcome to Edinburgh. This is illegal @Edinburgh_CC #AccessAllAreas @guidedogs @GDlpool #DisgracefulBehaviour #Ignorant”.
Ms Fachie later added: “To be fair the company and other taxi drivers around were both disgusted and embarrassed by his behaviour and inform me they will follow it up.”
Edinburgh City Private Hire have since confirmed the driver concerned has been suspended pending an internal investigation.
The driver reportedly claimed to have an allergy to dogs, meaning he was unable to take the passengers.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for operators or drivers of any taxi or private hire firm to refuse to carry assistance dogs or to charge more for the fare or booking.
Drivers convicted of the offence could be fined up to £1,000 and have their licence removed.
Exemption certificates can be granted by local licencing authorities if it is proven a driver is medically unable to take on passengers with guide dogs.
However, this must be displayed in an “accessible” place such as on the windscreen or dashboard.
A spokesman for the private hire firm apologised to Mrs Fachie, adding the driver of the car had been “personally reported by one of the directors”.
He added: “At this point, we can only apologise to the customer for any inconvenience caused by the driver concerned.”
“Our airport staff immediately dispatched the job to the second available vehicle rather than the lady be delayed any further.
“The driver was suspended from the system and told to report to our head office to speak to one of the directors on Thursday morning.”
He continued: “Edinburgh City Private Hire will always fully comply with all licensing conditions at all times and our staff at the airport acted swiftly to ensure the lady reached her destination with the minimum of inconvenience.”
Pamela Munro, engagement officer at Guide Dogs Scotland, said: “We were extremely concerned to hear that Lora was told her guide dog wasn’t allowed into a taxi.
“Without the appropriate legal exception, it is a criminal offence for taxis to refuse a passenger who is accompanied by an assistance dog, not to mention very upsetting for the person involved.”
She added: “As a charity, Guide Dogs is always happy to work with service providers to help them develop a better understanding of the needs of guide dog owners and their duties under the Equality Act.”
A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “This is a matter for the private hire company. We are a guide dog friendly airport and offer a range of accessibility services for passengers.”
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