Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Australian man wins case in taxi discrimination against his guide dog

From Adelaide, Australia, Now on July 23:

A blind man who won a lawsuit after his guide dog was refused entry into a taxi is happy with the result - even though it means he lost a potential windfall.

Peter Ellson was today awarded $2300 in compensation and damages after the Equal Opportunity Tribunal found he had been discriminated against by a cabbie working for PBL Taxis in February 2006.

However, Mr Ellson could have made $25,000 more by settling out of court.
Mr Ellson said he took the legal action on behalf of all blind people who have experienced problems getting their guide dogs into cabs.

"Every single guide dog user through the metropolitan area have had difficulties with catching taxis and there are only three or four of us who have ever brought it to the Equal Opportunities Commission,'' he said. "They (taxi companies) still haven't got the message but I'm thinking that today they probably got the message.''

The tribunal found that taxi companies and booking agents were responsible for the actions of their drivers.

Mr Ellson said some drivers were still prepared to "take the risk'' of refusing entry to guide dogs.

"It's a little bit like drink driving - people used to take the risk until the penalties got tougher,'' he said. "It's the same with guide dogs - if they don't want to take a dog they will take a chance.''

He said his legal battle had cost him much more than his $2,300 payout - but that his fight was never about the money.

"I'm not in it for the money, if I was on the second day of court, the operator's solicitors actually offered me $27,000 to withdraw the complaint and go away - and I refused, I turned that down,'' he said.