PHOTO: Disability access advocate David Foran says he has experienced discrimination with his guide dog, Oliver, numerous times with taxis and at cafes in Melbourne. (ABC Local: Clare Rawlinson)
Victorian guide dogs and their handlers are facing the highest rates of discrimination in the nation, with taxis refusing or questioning right of access 46 per cent of the time.
A new Guide Dogs Victoria survey found two-thirds of guide dog handlers faced discrimination in the past year, including at shopping centres and cafes.
Legally, the only place guide dogs are not allowed is in operating theatres and at zoos.
Guide dog handler and disability access advocate David Foran said he had faced discrimination on several occasions when trying to catch taxis or a ride share with Uber.
You might book and a car comes to your home, then they see a dog and they just drive off.
David Foran, guide dog handler
“You might book and a car comes to your home, then they see a dog and they just drive off,” he said.
“Or you open the door and they have some excuse.”
He said the best way to ensure a taxi would not reject him and his guide dog, Oliver, was to use a taxi rank at a hotel.
“That’s one of the tricks you have to employ because it’s almost like there’s no escape there, which is a shame, but if you have to catch a cab, you have to catch a cab.”
Guide Dogs Victoria has been working with taxi drivers to provide dog mats and promote awareness of disability access rights.
“It’s not often about hostility, it’s just a lack of education,” Mr Foran said.
“I spoke to my Muslim taxi driver, and he said sometimes it’s a cultural barrier, and whenever there’s a cultural barrier there needs to be education.”
Chief executive of Guide Dogs Victoria, Karen Hayes said discrimination was causing some handlers to go without their dogs in public.
“Some have even thought twice about taking their guide dog with them, which puts them in danger,” she said.
But she said improvements were being made in the public transport sector as Victoria makes a gradual shift to 100 per cent disability-friendly tram services.
“Guide dogs enable people who are blind or vision impaired to live independently, which makes it even more vital that they can access not only public transport, but all areas,” Ms Hayes said