Sidmouth guide dog trainer 'gobsmacked' by Exeter Braille teacher's taxi ride refusal
PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:56 02 November 2017
A Sidmouth guide dog puppy walker wants to get the message across that it is illegal for businesses to deny entry to anyone using a support animal after a ‘gobsmacking’ case in Exeter
Ashley Leeds was left ‘gobsmacked’ when Jenny Langley, who was partially sighted from birth and is now totally blind, told him how vulnerable she felt when a taxi driver refused to take her to her Exeter home.
They met at a charity fundraiser and dad-of-two Ashley has since been urging Sid Valley shops and cafes to put stickers up saying they accept guide dogs.
Jenny, a Braille teacher at the WESC Foundation who lives in Exeter, said: “I was going home from work so I called a taxi. The drivers usually come to reception but he didn’t get out of his car.
“I tend to travel with my guide dog, Patty, in the front seat, but the driver said he wouldn’t take a dog – he refused.
“I went back to reception and the driver called his manager, who told him to take me. He marched into reception and was very aggressive.
“He almost begged me to come into his car. I refused to go with him – I didn’t want to get in a car with someone that aggressive.”
Partially sighted since birth due to a rare genetic condition called amiridia, Jenny lost her useful vision three years ago and is now totally blind. Patty is her second guide dog; her first had to retire as they had learned ways of working while Jenny still had some sight.
“You’re vulnerable as a blind person,” added the 35-year-old. “This made me feel even more vulnerable. This was the first time it’s happened to me but my friends tell me it’s a big problem elsewhere in the country.”
Ashley said: “I was aware some people would say guide dogs aren’t allowed in their shops, but that’s illegal.
“I never gave a thought about taxis. Jenny was left stranded. I was gobsmacked. She had no way of getting home. We’re in the 21st century – not the Dark Ages.”
Ashley and his family previously took a black Labrador, Trekka, and now the pup is on a trial with a new owner.
They are now looking after five-month-old Archie, who ‘looks like the Andrex puppy’ and has a bright future ahead of him too.
He said people often think it must be hard to part with the assistance animals – but after meeting their new owners it is ‘an honour’.