For disabled people who can’t drive, or have difficulties accessing public transport, taxis are a lifeline. But it’s not all straightforward as we have been finding out.
Licensed Hackney Carriages, such as London Black cabs, frequently have excellent accessibility features, but if you’re reliant on private hire minicabs, or live away from the larger cities, accessible cabs can be few and far between. New crowdsourced cab services, such as Uber, which recently launched in London, are adding additional complications – Uber doesn’t currently have any accessibility requirements on its drivers.
A recent furore in Middlesborough over the pricing of taxis for disabled people highlighted the difficulties those in wheelchairs or needing special assistance when travelling, face in their daily life. Boro Taxis admitted that because of a row over pricing with Middlesbrough Council, it temporarily stopped providing a service to disabled people who require minibuses rather than regular vehicles.
In 2013 Enable Magazine reported on the transport woes for disabled people, including the problems with getting taxis. Among those who had used taxis in the previous year, 60% of respondents in wheelchairs and 30% of those who were blind or partially sighted said they experienced problems such as being charged a higher price.
Some report discrimination by taxi drivers who use the excuse that they don’t have a ramp or that their vehicle is too small. In 2008 the BBC News online carried an article about wheelchair travel in black London cabs. Baroness Nicky Chapman of Leeds, who died in 2009, was often refused rides by taxi drivers, and vociferously campaigned for disabled travel rights.
The Taxi Register website has a section on taxis and disability, which outlines what taxi drivers are required by law to offer to disabled passengers. In essence, unless exempt on medical or physical grounds, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 requires taxi drivers to assist disabled people in accessing the vehicle and help them with any luggage that they carry. This means they should be prepared to carry disabled taxi passengers and not add any extra charge.
The London Taxi Experience, the official passenger website for London taxis, has a video showing the accessibility aids in a black cab, including ramps, seatbelts to secure a wheelchair, and a swivel seat for passengers with limited mobility. Cabs can be pre-booked via the site.
The Citizens Advice Bureau has issued an advice guide on the rights of passengers using taxis and minicabs. The Government has not issued any national standards for wheelchair accessible taxis and minicabs, so it’s down to the local authority guidelines in your area. They also outline how to make a complaint if you feel you have been unfairly treated. In the first instance contact the firm, if you don’t get any redress there, then contact the local authority or, in London, the Public Carriage Office.