Visually impaired Norwich student told to put her guide dog in boot of taxi
- Credit: Steve Adams
A visually-impaired student today said laws to prevent discrimination against people who use guide dogs need to be tightened up and enforced more frequently.
Ruby Blyth-Smith, 21, of Norwich, made the call after twice encountering difficulties with a taxi-driver who would only drive her if her guide dog was put in the boot.
The University of Essex law student said: 'I want to make people aware that discrimination is happening and it's a common occurrence.'
Miss Blyth-Smith suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited degenerative condition, which she developed as a 13-year-old. She has lost her peripheral vision and struggles to see in the dark or if faced with bright light, and is therefore guided around by two-year-old black labrador Ziggy.
Despite the law stating people should not be denied access and services because of their guide dog, Miss Blyth-Smith has twice experienced a taxi driver refusing to drive her unless Ziggy was placed in the boot.
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On the first occasion Miss Blyth-Smith relented, while on the second occasion she complained to the taxi company, which ordered the driver to allow Ziggy into the main section of the car.
She is now backing national charity Guide Dogs UK's 'Access All Areas' campaign. The campaign calls for more enforcement of the law that prevents guide dog-users from being refused access to taxis, bars, restaurants, and shops.
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Miss Blyth-Smith, who emphasised she had resolved her problems with the taxi company, said: 'The first journey was horrible.
'It was distressing for both myself and Ziggy when she was put in the boot the first time.
'She wasn't used to it and she was being bumped around.'
Miss Blyth-Smith was one of around 100 guide dog owners to lobbied MPs on the issue outside the Houses of Parliament in London last month.
'The more we can raise awareness of these issues the fewer people will be ignorant,' she said.
If you are blind or visually-impaired and have experienced discrimination because of your guide dog, Miss Blyth-Smith is keen to hear from you. Email her at email@example.com