Blind woman 'dropped off on wrong street' by Telford taxi driver and 'refused help three times'
A blind woman who used a popular taxi service in Telford has claimed she was not only dropped off at the wrong address, but was denied requests for help in getting to her destination.
Vicki Edwards booked a taxi with Go Carz for 7pm on the evening of Saturday, December 17, to take her from her home to a friend's house, about three-and-a-half miles away.
However, she said the driver did not take her to her friend's house, but to a property a few streets away. When she asked for him to help her to the door of the house, she says her request was ignored three times.
Vicki said: "The driver didn’t seem to know where he was going. He pulled up in what he said was the right street and just said, ‘There’s number 29.’
"I asked him at least three times if he could walk with me to the right door, and I don’t know if he was ignoring what I was saying or he couldn’t understand me, but he just didn’t respond to me at all.
"I asked him three times. He just said, 'We're here, you can get out now.' I had got my white stick with me - it was folded up but I'd quite clearly got it.
"It wouldn't have taken a lot to walk me a few yards to the door. He could see me just standing there. He made an active choice not to assist me and dropped me off in the dark on my own."
Vicki paid the £7.20 taxi fee, which has since been refunded by Go Carz due to the "incomplete journey" and messaged her friend to meet her.
"My friend rang me and said 'You're not in the right place," Vicki said. "And my son rang me, worried about me, because he'd followed me on Find My Friends.
"Thankfully it wasn’t far away from where my friend lives and she was able to come and find me, but what if it was far away, or she couldn’t have come out to find me?
"I’d have been stuck on the side of the road in the dark, unable to see, not knowing where I was."
Since the incident, Vicki has lodged a complaint with Go Carz, and received an email back which was filed as "discrimination, dropped on wrong street".
The company has also told her it has suspended the driver from the taxi system until it can speak to him
"I want to stress that I don't want to go after Go Carz, I don't want revenge," Vicki said.
"I want them to do better so this doesn't happen again to me or somebody else.
"I have been fighting battles all my life, I don't believe in just fighting for myself."
The incident has caused anxiety for Vicki, although this is not the first stressful taxi experience she has endured.
"I'm not shocked sadly. I was worried this would happen even before it happened," she said.
"I get so exhausted having to report things all the time.
"I've had issues before with taxis in Oxford, when I've had guide dogs. Most just don't want to help you. They'll park where they feel like when waiting for you.
"If colleagues can't give me a lift [after late shifts] I have to get a taxi - and I know they could be parked anywhere."
She added: "I am very anxious, it's difficult enough as it is. It takes a lot of courage to go out.
"Every time you go out somewhere when you can't see, you're taking a leap of faith in a way - rely on somebody to help you in some way. You could find yourself in a really troubling situation.
"If I thought about it enough, I'd never do anything again, because I'd be scared something will go wrong.
"There's nothing between me and the world but a white stick - which is quite terrifying really. But you just have to get on with it."
Vicki hopes that the encounter will encourage companies to think more about people with visual impairments, to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
"What they can do is listen and take notice of what people are saying," she said.
"A lot don't listen and don't care, they just want to get to the next job.
"It's a job for them but it's somebody's life. If somebody wants help, behave with a bit of humanity."
Vicki also hopes taxi drivers will park at the agreed-upon location and that companies will make their apps more accessible for people using screen readers.
A spokesman for Go Carz said: "We are aware of an alleged incident in Telford involving a driver-partner and a passenger.
"We keep detailed booking records and track every journey. Our team are conducting an investigation and have spoken to the passenger.
"Safety is our number one priority. We remain committed to taking swift and decisive action in the interests of passenger and driver-partner safety."
Adam Marsh, Guide Dogs policy and campaigns manager for the north-west, added: “It is a basic duty of all taxi drivers to drop a passenger off at their destination. If this were not possible, most people would expect to be told where they are – especially if you’re not familiar with an area.
“Where this does not happen, it can be exceptionally confusing, and potentially dangerous, for people with sight loss.
"We are calling for mandatory equality and diversity training for all private hire vehicle and taxi drivers, to make sure fewer people with sight loss go through what Vicki has experienced.”