Why some taxi drivers should be given the boot!

I’m afraid I have to blog again about an access issue, this time involving a well-known taxi company in Cardiff.
I’d had a fantastic time out with a friend, celebrating the fact that he’d finished his PHD course.
I normally book with a company called Dragon, who are mostly OK with my guide dog travelling with me.
But this company *I’m refusing to name them because I don’t want them to have publicity, good or bad* but I thought I’d use them for a change.
I’ve used them before, we had a few issues, but nothing like I experienced last night.
as soon as the taxi arrived the man said the dog would have to go in the boot.
I told him that it was better and easier for my guide dog, whom I’ve had for 2 years to sit with me in the foot well in the back of the taxi.
He said guide dogs normally went in the boot, and I re-iterated my reason for having him with me.
All the way home he wouldn’t let it go, and just kept on and on about how he takes guide dogs all the time and they go in the boot.
I felt utterly bullied and it really spoilt a lovely day.
I tried to assure him that we’d had a lot of training as to what to do with our dogs, and that if he was in the boot he’d be more more upset and restless than if he was with me.
The driver said the dog was all scrunched up in the back and couldn’t move, which made me, feel like an incompetent bad owner.
I eventually had to say that I’d had guide dogs for 20 years and I doubted there was anything he could tell me about how to look after them correctly.
His response was to say: “Oh, sorry I spoke, I won’t do it again!”
I do not expect to be questioned as to how I should or shouldn’t look after my dog when I am in a taxi.
I told him that no other driver had ever had a problem with my dog.
His attitude was absolutely wrong – and I refuse to let any other guide dog owner experience what I did yesterday.
I reported the issue to my local guide dogs team – and they were, as always fantastic.
Another thing which has enraged me is that the Email I had back from the company said they’d look into the “alleged” response.
Now, I’m a trained broadcast journo, so I fully realise there are instances when you have to write: “Alleged” but this isn’t one of them – she was basically saying: “If you’re telling the truth.”
I was very shaken and upset when I arrived home.

I had to write this to let other guide dog owners know about the issues, and to let any taxi driver know that what happened to me yesterday was unacceptable!!
Here are some things to read from the response guide dogs have sent to the company.
1. When travelling, guide dogs are trained to sit at their owner’s feet at all times, not to bother other people and not to climb on seats.
2. Providers must make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in the way they provide their services.
3. Drivers should ask the blind or partially sighted person what assistance is needed before making assumptions as to what might be required.
4. If drivers have been hired to carry a guide dog owner, ask the passenger where they would prefer their dog to be. In purpose built taxis the dog will travel in the passenger cabin with the owner. In saloon cars guide dogs are normally trained to lie in the front or rear passenger foot well, between the feet of their owner.
5. If the front foot well is not large enough to accommodate the dog, the guide dog owner should be advised to travel in the rear of the vehicle with the dog in the foot well behind the front passenger seat. The front passenger seat should be pushed forward to make space for the dog. In an estate car, if the guide dog owner is in agreement, the dog may travel in the boot space.
Have you had taxi dramas?
Pop your experiences in the comments section of my blog, or follow me on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

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a blind persons view of voting in the general election

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, or climbing a mountain on Antarctica you’ll know we’ve just had a general election.
What you think of this is your own business, but have you ever stopped to consider how people with little or no sight vote?
Read on for my story, it’s not how everyone is affected, and I want to make that disclaimer to avoid any offence or outrageous tweets!
First, getting to the polling station.
A lovely friend of mine offered to help me find my local polling station.
After navigating a six inch step, they’d decided to put a helpful little ramp up to the building.
We then walked in to be greeted by a lovely lady who remembered me from the last few elections and asked if I’d like the Braille overlay.
This is a plastic card which fits over the ballot paper, it has braille numbers down one side and a little flap which you lift and pop your cross in.
Then she sighed and said:
“Oh no, I can’t get the Braille to fit over the ballot paper properly!”
I felt so sorry for her, as it wasn’t her fault.
But here’s where the real change needs to happen.
Luckily we only had 5 names to choose from, but on some occasions there can be up to 10 or more!
I’ve been saying for years that if the names were available in Braille, along with the parties each candidate represented, you could vote totally independently.
Nobody has listened to blind and partially sighted people, or disabled people in general.
So, you have to ask someone to read the names out and numbers while you try and remember which one you want to vote for.
We’re still being denied a basic fundamental human right, purely because people fail to make the necessary changes which would help us.
So, I marked my paper, but then my friend had to show the lady where I’d marked and ask if it was OK, which again is showing her who I voted for, which is a very personal thing.
I felt so sorry for both of them.
So, how would I change things if I could?
Firstly, there’d be an option when registering to vote where you could declare *if you wanted to* that you had sight loss, however you want to describe it.
Then, each polling station would have a selection of braille/large print ballot papers *or realistic option* with the left-hand side displaying the names/numbers of the candidates. The other side would have a line of dots, after which would be space to pop your tick/cross.
Easy right?
That’s what I’d do, but the only problem is, I’m only one person – I’m not a politician/returning officer/anybody really.
But maybe someone will read this and think:
“You know what Nicki, that’s actually a pretty good idea!”

Let me know what you think by popping comments underneath this blog or following my adventures on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly