Campaign groups for disability rights have welcomed a change in the law which demands equal treatment for disabled taxi users. Taxi drivers now face a fine of up to £1,000 if they refuse to transport wheelchair and mobility scooter users or attempt to charge them extra.
In 2015, an article by the BBC stated that on average, the cost of a taxi was around two-thirds more for wheelchair users. As part of their investigation, a team from Inside Out West Midlands took black-cab trips across Stoke-on-Trent with 22-year-old student Baljeevan Deol who has generalised dystonia, which means she cannot control her muscles. The team took 12 identical trips through the city centre and found that Baljeevan was charged more every time.
From 6 April 2017 taxi and private hire vehicle drivers will be obliged by law to transport wheelchair users in their wheelchair, provide passengers in wheelchairs with appropriate assistance when required and charge wheelchair and mobility scooter users the same as non-wheelchair users.
In his announcement, Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “We want to build a country that works for everyone, and part of that is ensuring disabled people have the same access to services and opportunities as anyone else – including when it comes to travel. People who use wheelchairs are often heavily reliant on taxis and private hire vehicles and this change to the law will mean fair and equal treatment for all.”
James Taylor, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the disability charity Scope, said: “Many disabled people are forced to pay unreasonable additional charges when using taxis, simply because they are using a wheelchair.
“Disabled people already incur hefty extra costs due to a lack of accessible public transport and are often reliant on taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) to get to work, hospital, go shopping or visit family and friends.
“It’s vital that all drivers recognise the new obligations by the Department of Transport and that Tough action is taken against those who do not comply.”
Image credit: Monarch Mobility