In recent months, there’s been increased scrutiny on the issue of wheelchair users being refused access to taxis. A report by Middlesborough Council’s Licensing Officer found that some wheelchair users were being charged double the normal rate, or being charged a £10 premium on top of the normal fare.
Department for Transport recently issued a survey, to find more about the experience of wheelchair users with taxis and private hire vehicles (minicabs) (survey closed on 16th February). You can find a copy of the survey here.
At the same time, the Law Commission is looking into the licensing of taxis and minicabs, which will examine access to taxis for disabled passengers. They will publish their review in ‘the spring’.
Equal access to taxis – unenforceable for fifteen years
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 – 15 years ago! – included a requirement for drivers to accept and assist wheelchair users and make no extra charge for this. The 2010 Equality Act included the same requirement – Section 165.
But this regulation has never been brought into force.
Fifteen years after the equal access to taxis was written into the statute books, it’s still unenforceable – an issue which the Commons Transport Committee raised in their recent investigation report into access to transport.
In 2010, the then-Minister, Norman Baker, said that the delay in enforcing the law would allow time for drivers to apply for exemptions, if they had a health condition that meant they were not fit enough to assist wheelchair users. The Government has also shied away from making disability equality training mandatory for taxi and minicab drivers.
In their response to the Transport Committee report, the Government said:
We were at that time, and still are, considering our commencement strategy for this section which places duties on drivers of designated taxis and PHVs to assist passengers who use wheelchairs. If we do commence section 165, we shall need to consider how best to ensure that drivers are fully aware of the nature and extent of their duties. More generally, we welcome local initiatives to enhance taxi driver training and our Best Practice Guidance highlights to local authorities the importance of training. Whilst the Department provides dedicated guidance as the need arises, we are not proposing to establish or fund a comprehensive training programme for taxi and PHV drivers.
“I can’t remember a trip when there wasn’t a problem with being refused“
Kaliya Franklin is a wheelchair user who frequently is refused carriage by London taxis. She said:
“Anxiety about whether taxi drivers will stop for me starts a good week or so before I have to travel to London. I have to go to London quite regularly and can’t remember a trip when there wasn’t a problem with being refused by taxis, but it definitely seems to have got worse in the past 6 months. On my last trip to London I hailed a Hackney cab on the road. The driver pulled in, looked me up and down, shook his head and drove off. It was raining, cold and made me cry. Another driver stopped, but refused to take me because it was ‘only round the corner and not worth getting the ramp for’
“When I go to Portcullis House for work I know I can’t get taxis to stop for me outside, especially if it’s raining. The police team there will always hail cabs for me, and I have had to resort to asking police to help me get a cab to stop in other parts of the city. It is the ONLY reliable way, as a wheelchair user, to get a cab to stop. More and more drivers say that they have rented their cabs and so don’t know how to work the ramp, or that it’s broken.“
Transport for All believe that equal access to taxis should be a given. In London, taxis are a vital way of getting around speedily, given that so much of the Tube network is out of bounds to those who can’t use stairs. Expecting wheelchair users to pay more is unacceptable.
It’s high time the Government enforced equality. We don’t need a survey to reveal that minicab drivers and taxidrivers overcharging disabled people is widespread. Furthermore, understanding just how widespread it is, is an academic question. Disability discrimination –whether by a cab driver, a bus driver, an employer or a stranger in the street – is always wrong. And when it happens, we need the enforcement to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
As always, if you have been discriminated against by a taxi or minicab driver – whether you’ve been overcharged or refused a ride – please get in touch and we will take up your complaint.