A Sherwood Park woman is raising the alarm about her treatment by a local cab company
Leanne Hughes, a Summerwood resident, relies on a service dog due to her epilepsy and claims she was recently refused a ride by Sherwood Park Flat Rate due to her dog named Hope.
“What they did was said they wanted cash first and I said I was not going to pay until I was brought home. I asked why it would cost more money and he said because it (the dog) was in the car,” explained Hughes. “He refused to take Hope with me, and then after I didn’t want to pay him before the ride, he told me to call dispatch and then that person told me to get out of the cab and get a different ride.”
According to the province’s Service Dogs Act, discriminating against a person lawfully using a qualified service dog or refusing access to qualified service dog teams could result in a $3,000 fine for businesses.
“A qualified service dog team has their rights to public spaces protected under the law. The right to public access means that a service dog team has the right to go anywhere the public may go,” the provincial government stated online.
The long list of public spaces outlined by the province included taxis and buses.
Hughes said she has contacted the Government of Alberta Service Dog Department, who advised her to talk to media outlets.
The incident left her feeling disappointed and angry. She said the company has not apologized or tried to make amends for what happened.
“Is this something you’d do with somebody with a wheelchair? Hope is my wheelchair and he didn’t want to have anything to do with her. I tried to show him her identification, but he was not interested in it,” Hughes said. “I explained it was against the law. I told him I would report him and he told me to go ahead and do that.”
The 1.5-year-old black lab is extremely well-trained and is meant to travel everywhere with her handler.
“Her name is Hope because she is to give me hope to leave my house. If I have a seizure I can grab her instead of someone else and hug them and not make sense and scare somebody,” Hughes said. “Now all my hope is gone. I feel scared to get to class and scared to go anywhere further than walking distance. I feel trapped again with my disability and feel stuck at home.”
The cab, dispatched by Sherwood Park Flat Rate, allegedly refused her service at the Sherwood Heights baseball diamonds on Sunday, July 10 at 7:15 p.m.
“This is not okay. It doesn’t matter if it is epilepsy or if you have a wheelchair, like the lady who tried to call the same number I called and they ended up not answering and blocked her number, this isn’t ok,” Hughes said. “There is a reason why we have the service equipment we have. I look fine, but I have epilepsy. It doesn’t matter what your disability is, (service dogs) are our wheelchair.”
Hughes said she wants everyone to know what happened and make sure it does not happen again.
“I would like them to be fined and for them to know they are not allowed to do this. I made it very clear because sometimes people aren’t educated in regards to it, so I explained it to them and I want everybody to be educated. These dogs are crucial, so crucial for us. Getting out in public and being comfortable is important and this shouldn’t happen to anybody,” Hughes said.
Sherwood Park Flat Rate Cabs did not return a request for comment.
Source: sherwoodparknews.com, Travis Dosser