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Blind resident refused
cab service speaks out


By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor 

  When Christy Butler needed to go to a doctor’s appointment, imagine her surprise when she was unable to get service from two different taxi cab companies operating out of her hometown of McDonough because she insisted on taking her guide dog on the trip.

Christy Butler and her guide dog, Bailey, stand on the front porch of her McDonough residence.
                      Photo by Melissa Robinson

  She said that last Tuesday, May 28, she called both Checker Cab and PDA Taxi Service, both located in McDonough, for a ride to her doctor’s office. She said that Checker Cab refused her transportation once they found out she had a guide dog. She said that a man who answered the phone at PDA Taxi told her he would have to check with his father and get back to her, but according to Butler, she never received a call back.

  Butler, who is legally blind and has been since childhood, qualified for a Pilot Guide Dog last summer. She said her service dog enables her to have more independence by leading her around objects that might impede her mobility and away from traffic.

  “She knows all her commands and understands left from right, in and out and stops for curbs and steps,” said Butler. “She’s a great asset.”

  On the day she called the cab companies for service, she said she was scheduled for a doctor’s appointment in McDonough. She said her husband ended up taking the day off to take her to the medical appointment.

  Larry Crawford, owner of PDA Taxi in McDonough, said he was previously unfamiliar with Butler, but after speaking with his son, he said there was a miscommunication and that al-though his son did say he would have to check, he said Butler was supposed to call back and never did. Crawford said he has never refused service to a rider accompanied by a guide dog. Crawford said he’s familiar with the Georgia code that protects individuals who use guide or service animals and said he doesn’t refuse service based on disability.

  “I have a customer I take to the airport all the time with her dog,” said Crawford. “But I do want to apologize to the customer for the miscommunication and let her know the next time she needs a cab, to call.”

  Crawford even offered Butler a free ride the next time she calls.

  Marcus Mckoy, owner and operator of Checker Cab in McDonough, said he remembers Butler and said he refused service on that particular day because he was driving his wife’s BMW and not his regular service vehicle, and as a business owner, he has the right to refuse anyone service.

  “I felt that I couldn’t accommodate her that day and didn’t want to take that liability,” said Mckoy.

  Mckoy said he was unfamiliar with GA Code 30-4-2 titled “Right to equal public accommodations; right to be accompanied by guide dog or service dog,” which states, in part, “(a) blind persons, persons with visual disabilities, persons with physical disabilities and deaf persons are entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges on all common carriers, airplanes, motor vehicles, railroad trains, motor buses, street cars, boats or any other public conveyances or modes of transportation ... (b) (1) Every totally or partially blind person shall have the right to be accompanied by a guide dog … ”

  Mckoy, who said he is studying law, said Butler also had a bad attitude, and he was under the impression that she had been refused by other cab companies and was frustrated by the time she called his service.

  Butler said she was upset and frustrated that day and has been discriminated in other in-stances, such as a recent trip to a chain sandwich shop where the owner told her that no dogs were allowed in his store. She explained that Bailey was a guide dog but was ready to leave the store, however, she said her husband stood his ground and insisted on service. She said the owner reluctantly took their orders.

  “He said he would serve us this time,” said Butler.

  Butler said what she really wants is people to be aware of the laws that protect people with disabilities. She said there are many businesses in McDonough and Henry County that welcome her with her guide dog, but there have still been too many instances where she is questioned, and even refused service.

  “It’s very frustrating, but Bailey enables me to be more independent,” she said.

  Butler’s relative Wesley Brown shares her frustration and said that ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse, but he understands how a small business owner might not know all of the laws.

  “If you don’t educate people, they never learn. Hopefully this helps educate some people,” said Brown.

  In addition to Georgia law, there are also federal laws under the Americans with Disabilities Act that protect persons with disabilities. If you feel you have been discriminated against based on a disability, you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice by mail, fax or email. Write to U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section – 1425 NYAV, Washington, D.C. 20530, fax to 202-307-1197, or email  ADA.

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