Blind World Magazine

Cabbies Fired After Denying Blind Woman Ride., Florida.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Two Gator City cab drivers lost their jobs recently after a blind Westside woman said she was denied taxi service twice.

Mahalah Va Shem is legally blind. She can see a little, but needs her service dog, Burgee, to get around.

Tuesday night she was not able to get far. Va Shem said she called Gator City Cab to take her to the store. However, when the driver arrived, she said he refused to allow her guide dog in the cab.

"I said, 'Sir, this is a service animal. You can't do this.' (The cab driver said,) 'Oh, yes I can. My cab. My cab. No dog. Out. Out. Out,'" Va Shem said.

Va Shem called for another taxi, who took her and her dog to the store, but allegedly refused to bring her home.

She said from there, things only got worse. When she was done grocery shopping, she had a store employee call another cab to take her home, and the same thing happened.

"The girl working at the store comes back and says, 'You are not going to believe this. Their lady dispatch says they don't accept service animals period, and hung up on me,'" Va Shem said.

A police officer who was at the store confirmed what happened.

Va Shem ended up walking home with her dog and the groceries.

"When I got home last night I was in tears, and I called. I got a new dispatcher because they changed shifts, and this gentleman was very nice and very upset with the way I was treated," Va Shem said.

Channel 4 talked to a Gator City Cab representative, who confirmed that the incident did occur, and said they've already taken steps to make sure a similar incident never happens again.

"We felt this was such a serious infraction that we made a decision to terminate their contracts and they won't drive with us. In the future, we won't tolerate that. We have a zero tolerance for mistreating anyone," said Mark Hayden of the Jacksonville Transportation Group.

End of article.

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