The Bill makes some key changes to existing law, and will come into effect in 2 months’ time, addressing some of the remaining barriers that disabled people face while traveling by Taxi and PHVs. Here’s what it means for disabled people.
Commenting on the news, Transport for All’s Campaigns and Policy Manager Katie Pennick said,
“Transport for All welcomes these new measures, and their attempt to tackle the outstanding barriers disabled people face in Taxis and PHVs. We also recognise that effective roll out and enforcement of the Bill will be necessary to make meaningful change. Transport for All will be looking to work closely with the Department for Transport to ensure that the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the new Bill is sound, and that this integral mode of transport can be made as safe and accessible as possible.”
Approximately 60% of disabled people have no household access to a private vehicle (well above the national average of 27%) In rural areas where there are fewer transport links, some disabled people have little to no access to public transport at all. Taxi and PHVs are therefore an integral form of transport to many disabled passengers, who make twice as many journeys by these means each year than non-disabled people.
Despite this, many disabled people routinely experience barriers to travelling via Taxi or PHV: from being overcharged for trips, drivers making prejudiced comments, or even companies refusing to accept bookings from disabled passengers at all, these barriers can make this essential mode of transport inaccessible.
In our policy workshop on disabled people’s experiences of Taxis we held earlier this year, one chronically ill participant told us:
“I have a very fluctuating disability, sometimes I will be walking all day long but suddenly my legs will give out and I can’t walk any further. It means I may need to get a cab a very short distance, even meters down the road to the station. A driver refused to take me this short journey because I ‘look healthy’ and I am not using any mobility aids. He was aggressive.”
While past legislation has attempted to address these issues, it hasn’t gone far enough. Currently the provisions set out in the Equality Act (2010) only apply to disabled passengers who specifically use a wheelchair or assistance dog. The provisions also only apply while using designated Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs). This means that, for instance, a disabled person using crutches who is able to transfer to the passenger seat and wants to travel in a non-Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle, is not currently protected by The Equality Act, with no penalty in place for drivers who refuse to assist or carry the individual. The new Bill seeks to close this loophole, protecting all disabled people from discrimination regardless of impairment type or mobility aids, and applies to all vehicles.
Addressing the House of Commons Jeremy Wright MP (who is sponsoring this Private Members Bill) said “The Equality Act 2010 made very significant progress in very many areas, but it was not perfect… The fundamental intention of the Bill is to ensure the protections envisaged in that Act work effectively and comprehensively.”
Speaking in support of the Bill, Shadow Minister for Roads Gill Furniss MP referred to the barriers that disabled people face as “downright scandalous”, adding “the proof is in the pudding, we must ensure that new rights are matched by tangible improvement in experiences.”
What’s in the new Bill?
The new bill proposes some imperative changes to the rights of disabled passengers in Taxis and PHVs, expanding on the existing provisions in The Equality Act (2010) to ensure safe and comfortable travel for all. Here is a breakdown of the key changes the Bill would put in place:
Drivers are obliged to carry and provide fair service to all passengers, regardless of impairment, at no extra cost. The new Bill extends existing laws to cover all disabled passengers, and imposes a fine of up to £1,000 for drivers who fail in their obligation to provide a fair, accessible service.
Drivers must provide as much mobility assistance as is reasonably required, including carrying mobility aids. This may involve helping a passenger transfer to the vehicle, folding wheelchairs, adjusting seats, or any other reasonable modification to ensure the trip is safe and comfortable.
Drivers must help passengers find and identify the vehicle. For blind and visually impaired people, this is often a challenge, and one that drivers can be reluctant to assist with. One of our members who is blind told us, “when the driver arrives and phones me to say he is here, I need the driver to find me as I can’t find them. Sometimes that is very challenging, sometimes the driver doesn’t understand or won’t co-operate. Many times they have just given up and driven off.” This Bill makes such discrimination a legal offence, and obliges drivers to help passengers locate the vehicle safely.
Local authorities must keep a register of licensed wheelchair-accessible Taxi’s and PHV’s, and must make these accessible to the public. Despite it already being law to keep these registers, around 30% of local authorities currently fail in this duty. By requiring that these lists are publicly available, disabled people will be able to make more informed decisions about accessible travel in their area.
Notes: This Act extends to England and Wales and Scotland, and will come into force 2 months from the time it is passed.
Got a question about the upcoming changes? Are you experiencing an issue accessing Taxis or Private Hire Vehicles and want our help complaining? Get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org