Wheelchair Accessibility in Taxis: What You Need To Know

Articles
January 18, 2021
James Parkinson
James Parkinson

Department for Transport research shows that taxi services are used disproportionately by the most vulnerable members of our society. If you work in the industry, it’s vital you familiarise yourself with the guidance on how to safely and effectively transport passengers which may require extra assistance.

Taxi drivers have a reputation for being helpful. From organising charity events to going the extra mile for customers, taxi and private hire drivers do a lot for their communities. Unfortunately, according to the Disability Justice Project, disabled people are victims of discrimination by taxi services more so than any other type of transport.

Since the Equality Act 2010 was brought in to UK law, it has been illegal for transport providers to discriminate against persons with service dogs. In 2017, the Department for Transport (DfT) release further statutory guidance making it illegal to discriminate against wheelchair users as well.

To help you ensure that you and your organisation are compliant, we’ve covered the key areas from this statutory guidance below:

Driver Responsibilities

The statutory guidance specifies five responsibilities for any driver supporting a passenger in a wheel-chair. These responsibilities include:

  • Not to make any additional charge for transporting a wheelchair user.
  • To carry the passenger in the taxi whilst in their wheelchair, or;
  • If the passenger chooses to sit in a passenger seat the driver must safely and securely carry the wheelchair.
  • Take any necessary steps to ensure that the passenger is carried in safety and reasonable comfort
  • Provide mobility assistance as is reasonably required.

Reasonable mobility assistance is defined as: helping the passenger get in and out of the vehicle; loading the passenger’s luggage into or out of the vehicle; providing support to load the wheelchair in and out of the vehicle.  

This definition is not exhaustive and common sense should be used to determine what is a reasonable requirement based on this.

Once a job is commenced, it is an offence for a driver to not comply with these rules. The DfT recommend that taxi and private hire operators familiarize themselves with the ‘Disability Equality and Awareness Training Framework for Transport Staff’. This guidance was produced by extensive research on behalf of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee.

Vehicle Lists

Approximately 58% of all taxi and private hire vehicles in the UK are classed as being wheelchair accessible. The statutory guidance strongly suggests that licensing authorities maintain a list of accessible vehicles in their area. Whilst this isn’t a legal duty, the vast majority of councils and licensing bodies do maintain a list of this kind.

Maintaining lists of this kind means that passengers with accessibility requirements can contact the council to request advice on who they can book a cab with.  

While it makes sense that local authorities maintain a list of this kind, we’d strongly recommend that operators do the same. Having this resource available means that passengers who need assistance due to disability have a much easier time booking and making their journey’s.  

It is likely that lists such as this will become mandatory in the next couple of years. If you get ahead of the game now, there’s nothing you need to prepare for in the future!

Exemptions

Drivers and operators need to do everything they are reasonably able to do to support wheelchair-using passengers. However, they also need to ensure they are protecting themselves. Certain people are exempt from the statutory guidance for health reasons.

Licensing authorities can exempt certain drivers if they have a medical, physical or debilitating condition. These exemptions could be temporary or permanent depending on the needs of the individual in question. Authorities should have systems in place to ensure a fair and systematic issue of these exemptions. Independent medical assessments should be a key component of this, where appropriate.

If a driver is made exempt, they are not bound by the statutory guidance on accessibility. However, any exempt drivers must display a licensing authority issued exemption certificate to advise potential passengers. Without this, a driver could be breaking the law even if they are actually exempt on medical grounds.

For more information about how TaxiPlus' solutions help the industry, you can find out more at taxiplus.co.uk! Or get in touch by email on hello@taxiplus.co.uk

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