A Night to Remember

Assistance Animals And Taxis In Washington: What Passengers Need To Know

Experts estimate that around 54 million people in the United States have a disability, and many of these people use assistance animals and guide dogs. Traveling around a major city like Washington D.C. is stressful and hectic for anyone, but people with assistance animals often need extra help. Learn more about what you should expect from a taxi driver if you use an assistance animal, and find out more about your rights as a disabled traveler.

The problem some disabled people face

Disabled travelers with guide dogs in Washington D.C. may sometimes find it harder to get a taxi than anyone else. One study found that half of all cab drivers in the city passed by somebody with an assistance animal in favor of an able-bodied passenger, even though the disabled passenger was closer to the car.

It's not always clear why some cab drivers act in this way. Some drivers may worry that the animal will make a mess in the car, while some consumer groups believe that some cab drivers don't want to carry disabled passengers because it can take longer to get to the next fare. In either case, this conduct is illegal.

What the law says

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires all public transit authorities to offer alternative suitable transportation for disabled passengers that can't use buses or the subway. Changes in state law mean that taxi fleets must make at least 20 percent of their fleet wheelchair accessible by 2018, and regulations also apply to passengers with guide dogs.

Drivers can ask passengers to place pets and domestic animals in carriers, and they can refuse to carry smelly or dirty animals, but cab drivers in D.C. cannot refuse to carry a passenger with an assistance animal. What's more, the driver cannot ask you to keep the animal in another part of the car, nor can he or she tell you to restrain the animal in a carrier or charge you an extra fare to carry your assistance animal.

What's more, cab drivers must always adhere to other rules that are particularly important to people with assistance animals. For example, the driver must take the most reasonable route between two points, and if you ask for a special route, the driver must comply. This rule is important if you want to avoid a particularly noisy part of the city that may frighten your assistance animal.

Private hire versus a taxi cab

Disabled travelers may prefer to pre-book a car with a private taxi company. Many taxi companies offer dedicated services for passengers with disabilities, so you can travel in the knowledge that your driver understands your needs. What's more, with a private company, you can often pay in advance, which will avoid the need to handle cash in the vehicle.  

If you think a taxi driver has broken the law, you should complain to the Washington D.C. Taxicab Commission, which regulates all drivers.

Disabled passengers may need extra help when traveling with an assistance animal. Before you travel in Washington D.C., talk to a discount cab company for more advice and assistance.