We are lucky in London to have Europe’s largest fleet of wheelchair accessible taxis – London’s famous black cabs are all equipped with ramps. Every one of them is meant to carry a portable step, so that disabled people can step more easily up into the vehicle.
However, too many disabled people – particularly assistance dog users and wheelchair users – have had the experience of being driven past or turned away for a taxi journey. Others are told that the ramp isn’t working; that the driver doesn’t know how to operate it, or that the driver has forgotten the step.
And our Advice and Advocacy Line frequently takes cases from Taxicard members who have been overcharged for a journey. The maximum run-in charge for Taxicard members (the charge for the taxi coming to one’s door) is £3.40 but often we hear from people who find there is £5 on the meter before the taxi has even gone anywhere.
The Law Commission is currently consulting on changes to the legal framework governing private hire vehicles and taxis, including the regulations around accessibility and equality for disabled passengers.
Proposals include introducing mandatory disability equality training as part of the licensing system. Transport for All believes that all frontline transport staff should have disability equality training, ideally including face-to-face engagement with older and disabled people.
The Law Commission is also looking at options to ensure that there are sufficient accessible vehicles on the road. In England as a whole, only 61% of all taxis are wheelchair accessible, although this varies greatly from area to area: in the West Midlands 72% of cabs are wheelchair accessible but in the South East, only 26%.
Options include quotas for wheelchair accessible vehicles; subsidies for drivers to convert their vehicles and cheaper licences for wheelchair accessible vehicles (as in Ireland).
You can find the consultation documents at http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/consultations/1804.htm. The consultation closes 10th September.
However, we must ensure that equality legislation already on the statute books is enforced. Shockingly, the law which makes it illegal to charge wheelchair users extra to use a taxi or minicab has never been implemented – though it has been in place since the introduction of the DDA over 15 years ago.
Taxi drivers can discriminate against wheelchair users with impunity.
Leonard Cheshire Disability is urging people to write to their MPs to demand that section 165, which makes it illegal to charge wheelchair users more to use a taxi or minicab, is brought into force to bring wheelchair users fair and equal treatment.
You can write to your MP and find more information here.
If you have been let down by a taxi or minicab service, please contact our Advice and Advocacy line and we will take up your case, taking legal action where appropriate.