Partial victory in battle for access to taxis

Partial victory in battle for access to taxis

It’s a classic image from the movies. Person in a hurry cries “Taxi!” and one comes skidding to a halt. But for many disabled would-be passengers it’s a prospect that falls far short of reality but which, Helen Dolphin says, is about to come a step nearer.

With less than a quarter of London underground stations claiming to be wheelchair-accessible my main mode of transport when travelling around the capital is in a taxi or mini cab. Although most of my journeys have been very pleasant it is always the horrible experiences that stick in my mind. These have included being told to pay extra for my wheelchair and assistant dog, falling over backwards when the driver let go of my wheelchair whilst pushing me in, being told to ask my dog to stop looking at the driver and the usual frequent problem of taxi drivers failing to stop once they see you’re a wheelchair user.

I’m hopeful, however, that much of the bad practice and discrimination endured by me and fellow disabled people will now be significantly reduced following the news that sections 165 and 167 of the Equality Act 2010 are finally going to be enacted later this year. This means that there will be duties on taxi drivers and private hire vehicles who have an accessible vehicle to, amongst other things, carry a passenger while in the wheelchair, give the passenger such mobility assistance as is reasonably required and not to make any additional charge for doing so.

Initially, it was thought that these changes would be gradually introduced between October 2010 and April 2011 but it just never happened. It wasn’t that section 165 was even anything new as it pretty much replicated section 36 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which was also never brought into force. Disabled people have therefore been waiting for over 20 years for the right to pay the same as a non-disabled person.

Reasons given for not implementing section 165 were that the Government at the time did not want to pursue any policies that might lead to fewer wheelchair-accessible taxis being available or create difficulties for local licensing authorities who may have already adopted a policy of only licensing wheelchair-accessible taxis. However, the current Government’s reason for implementing section 165 and section 167 are that they wish to provide disabled people with a better service and a higher degree of consistency about what they can expect from drivers and a formal avenue for complaint.

But although section 165 and section 167 will go some way to eliminating the discrimination that disabled people face when using taxis and mini cabs it will not address the issue in many cities outside London where there are just not enough accessible cabs to meet the needs of disabled people. This is another battle which is still to be won.

3 thoughts on “Partial victory in battle for access to taxis

  1. I have other gripes with the system of taxis for disabled people.
    I’m fortunate enough to have a London Taxi card so I get reduced fares on my journey.

    If I am fortunate I don’t get a standard Black cab. Instead I get a nice mini cab that computer cab sub contract to when they have no black cabs available.
    I prefer the mini cabs because
    1. My journey into central London only costs me £5 instead of the usual £23.50 with computer cab.
    2. I fond the drivers far more helpful than Black cabs who seem to choose the most expensive route they can find. The drivers are more friendly and helpful that the grumpy black cab drivers.

    For me it’s more about cost.
    Why should one driver charge me £5 and the other £23.50 ?
    Disabled people should have the right to choose the licensed cab company they want.
    It would probably be less costly to the people who pay the majority of the bill.
    At the moment it’s a bit like a closed practice shop with a poor quality of service.

    If we were treated like this in circumstances, say a retail shop we would stop using the shop and go elsewhere, at the moment we have no choice but for an expensive and unreliable service.

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  2. Taxi drivers are self-employed, therefore legally there is no firm/organisation that can be held responsible for making sure that there are enough accessible taxis. Legally a taxi is a one man band, so whether a driver chooses to drive an accessible taxi or not, is up to them. It is not unfair or illegal if that individual driver chooses to drive a car, not a wheelchair carrying taxi. Similarly most taxi firms do not set up a rota of who is on, the drivers simply clock on and off when they want to work. This means that the firms have no-way of regulating whether there any, or how many, accessible taxis on at any one time. Also the drivers have the right to, or not to, bid for the particular job. To implement disability legislation further in this industry you would have to totally change the way that taxis worked – it would have to be that drivers were employees, not self employed, and only then could firms be made to have a certain number of accessible taxis.

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