After calling for a taxi, a blind woman reached for the cab door to step inside. However, as soon as the driver pulled up, he took one look at the handicapped customer and sped off and left her stranded, telling her that he couldn’t help her because it was against his “faith.”
After calling for a taxi in Innsbruck, Austria, Gabriele Jandrasits stood near the curb with her professionally-trained service dog. As an employee of the Association for the Blind, Jandrasits is not only a representative for the visually impaired but lives with the impairment herself.
When her cab finally pulled up, Jandrasits was about to open the door to her ride when the driver suddenly informed her that he wouldn’t be able to provide her with his service. After she was left behind, like so many of the blind individuals she represents, she realized that it would violate his religion if he gave her a ride.
According to Tiroler Tageszeitung, Jandrasits and countless other blind citizens have been refused service by Muslim taxi drivers because of their service dogs, which are seen by the drivers as “ritually unclean.” The trend of refusing service to blind passengers with seeing-eye dogs has become commonplace in the taxi industry, which has been attributed to the fact that around 80-percent of cab drivers in the capital have a migrant background.
“If there were clear guidelines — for example, that certain dog breeds should not be transported in the passenger compartment, that the dogs must be leashed and muzzled or carried in a transport box — I would understand that, but the whole thing is simply arbitrary,” Jandrasits said.
Anton Eberl and Harald Flecker, the managers who direct the city’s taxis through the radio control center, confirmed that drivers are routinely rejecting customers with service dogs because of “reasons of faith” even though it is against the law. However, the directors admitted that they “are not the owners of the taxis” and “could do little to put a stop to it,” Breitbart reports.
“We try to make it clear to the drivers again and again… that these trips have to be carried out exactly like any other job. Unfortunately, at the moment we are not in a position to solve this problem satisfactorily,” said Flecker.
According to the Tyrolean Economic Chamber, transporting guide dogs and other service animals is “explicitly stated as a duty of the driver” in the state regulations. Still, people like Jandrasits are discriminated against and even abused without repercussions. The trend has reached all forms of public transportation. For example, in 2008, an elderly blind man with cancer was forced off of a bus after a passenger became “hysterical” over his seeing-eye dog and started angrily cursing at him in a foreign language.
Even imagery containing dogs has been a topic of controversy throughout Europe as recent immigrants seek to change social norms involving man’s best friend. In Scotland, police were forced to apologize for offending Muslim store owners by asking them to place cards showcasing the new non-emergency number in their shop windows. The cards featured a guide dog puppy wearing a police officer hat, which outraged the Islamic community.
“[W]e did not seek advice from the force’s diversity adviser prior to publishing and distributing the postcards,” a force spokesman grovelled. “That was an oversight and we apologise for any offence caused.”
Although Europeans have repeatedly apologized for offending their foreign guests, there has been no attempt at an apology from those who openly discriminate against physically impaired individuals. In fact, it appears as though Austrian authorities will continue to ignore these crimes in an effort to refrain from offending the taxi drivers.
For now, visually impaired citizens will have to take their chances when it comes to public transportation. Sadly, with 80 percent of drivers having a migrant background, the odds certainly aren’t in their favor.