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Drive with Heart campaign educates drivers about rights of Assistance Animals

New campaign to help passengers with assistance animals

Taxi and rideshare drivers are being urged to Drive with Heart to improve the experience for passengers travelling with assistance animals.

The Safe Transport Victoria program, launched yesterday, aims to educate drivers that passengers have the right to ride with their assistance animals.

As part of the campaign, taxi and rideshare drivers will learn about highly trained assistance animals and get the chance to meet Seeing Eye Dogs and speak to assistance animal handlers about their lived experiences.

The program is supported by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and Vision Australia. It’s developed to make drivers feel comfortable around assistance animals and reinforce education about their obligations.

Assistance animals are working dogs to support their handler and undergo rigorous safety and relationship training, meaning they will not bite, lick or jump on people or other animals.

Assistance animals, including guide dogs, are allowed in all taxis and rideshare vehicles and it is an offence to refuse service for to a passenger with their assistance animal.

Passengers who are refused service because of their assistance animal should lodge a complaint with the Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) and with the relevant Booking Service Provider.

“Many people living with a disability rely on commercial passenger vehicles to lead full and inclusive lives and make the most of work opportunities. It’s important for drivers to remember that assistance animals are welcome in every ride.” said 
Tammy O’Connor, CEO, Safe Transport Victoria.

“Being refused access to a taxi or rideshare is an unacceptable form of discrimination experienced by people who are blind or have low vision. The Drive with Heart campaign aims to educate the taxi and rideshare industry about the right of people with disabilities to ride with assistance animals. 

It was great to launch the campaign with taxi and rideshare drivers at Melbourne Airport, where they got to meet Seeing Eye Dog puppies and speak to assistance animal handlers about their experiences to dispel common misconceptions.” added Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, Ro Allen.

“It’s still all too common that I’m denied a taxi or rideshare booking when I’m travelling with Eva, my Seeing Eye Dog. 
 explained Vision Australia Manager Government Relations and Advocacy, and assistance animal handler, Chris Edwards. 
This takes away my ability to be an independent member of the community.”
Seeing Eye Dogs and all assistance animals are trained to calmly travel in a vehicle and are legally entitled to do so. This campaign to educate drivers is so important so that people with disability like myself can live the life we choose and manage our daily activities just like anybody else.”

What can drivers do during journeys for passengers with assistance animals: 

✔️ Ask the passenger if they need assistance before helping them and walk slowly to guide them to the vehicle door.  

✔️ The dog should never misbehave, but if a disruption is caused please discuss the issue with the owner. 

✔️ Worried about dog hair? You can keep a towel or sheet to cover the seat in your boot. 

✔️ The passenger should determine where the dog sits, but it is most common for the animal to sit in the footwell. Offer to slide the front passenger seat forward to make extra room. 

✔️ Make sure to speak to your passenger, not the dog. 

Been refused a ride? Here’s how to make a complaint:

If you’re a passenger with an assistance animal and have been unfairly treated or refused service when using a taxi or rideshare, you can:

1. File your complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) by visiting their  website  or calling them on 1300 292 153.

2. In addition to the VEOHRC complaint, report the incident to the Booking Service Provider you booked the ride with.

MEDIA RELEASE, 5th April 2024

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