Blind people with guide dogs are being refused service by Muslim cab drivers in Innsbruck, Austria, because they regard the animals as “ritually unclean”.
Some 80 per cent of cab drivers in the Tyrolean capital now have a migration background, the Tiroler Tageszeitung reports, with many having their roots in the Islamic world.
Anton Eberl and Harald Flecker, the managing directors of the radio control centre for cabs in Innsbruck, admitted that such incidents were a growing problem, but complained that they “are not the owners of the taxis. we only mediate [between riders and drivers]” and could do little to put a stop to it.
“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.
He explained that the roughly 400 drivers are constantly changing, they “have to inform them again and again and give them the rules.”
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Gabriele Jandrasits, who works for the Association of the Blind is is registered blind herself, commented that “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” after running into issues while trying to take a taxi to the airport herself.
However, according to Gabriel Klammer of the Tyrolean Economic Chamber, carrying guide dogs and other assistance dogs is already “explicitly stated as a duty of the driver” in new state works regulations.
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Culture clashes centred on dogs are not unique to Austria, with the United Kingdom having experienced a growing number of incidents going back years.
In 2008, for example, a blind pensioner with cancer was asked to get off a bus after a passenger became “hysterical” when he boarded with his guide dog and began berating him in a foreign language.
The same year, Tayside Police force in Scotland — now rolled into the Police Scotland super-force — actually apologised for producing postcards advertising a new non-emergency number which featured a guide dog puppy sitting in a policeman’s hat, because it “offended” Muslim shopkeers who were asked if they could display it in their windows.
“[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.”