NORWICH, England — Law student Ruby Blyth-Smith was just trying to get from point A to point B when a taxi driver refused to take her and her guide dog, unless the dog was in the trunk. The visually impaired 21-year-old was shocked by the demand but obliged and put two-year-old Ziggy in the back. Yet, when the woman received the exact same cab driver two-weeks-later and he made the same demand again, she refused to be intimidated and stood up to him.
Smith reveals, “I refused that time and I called the company and they told him he was breaking the law and had to take me, but he looked as though he thought they’d be on his side.” Begrudgingly the driver allowed Ziggy into the car but made the pair sit in the back and refused to move the seat up to create more space for them. That’s when Smith decided to speak out against the discrimination that many visually impaired individuals with guide dogs face and started a campaign to tighten the laws that prevent discrimination.
Smith suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, which is a degenerative condition that makes it difficult for her to see in the dark or when faced with bright lights, so Ziggy helps guide her. Since the incident, Smith has lobbied on the issue alongside 100 other guide dog owners last month and she is currently backing the Guide Dogs UK’s ‘Access All Areas’ campaign. Smith firmly believes that the taxi driver that dicrimanted against her, just received a slap on the wrist and is thus likely to do it again. She acknowledges that if laws surrounding such discrimination were tighter than they would be far more effective in creating real change. Smith adds, “The more we can raise awareness of these issues, the fewer people will be ignorant.”