A new law requiring taxi drivers not to discriminate against wheelchair users came into force on 6th April 2017. Taxi drivers face £1,000 fines for refusing to take or help wheelchair users, or if they charge wheelchair users more. But the new law only takes effect if the local council has created a “designated list” of wheelchair accessible taxis.
Accessible taxis are an essential part of an inclusive society; especially given the extensive barriers disabled people face with other forms of transport.
The Department of Transport’s guidance states:
“Section 167 of the Act (Equality Act 2010) permits, but does not require, LAs (Local Authorities) to maintain a designated list of wheelchair accessible taxis and PHVs (Private Hire Vehicles).
Whilst LAs are under no specific legal obligation to maintain a list under section 167, the Government recommends strongly that they do so. Without such a list the requirements of section 165 of the Act do not apply, and drivers may continue to refuse the carriage of wheelchair users, fail to provide them with assistance, or to charge them extra.”
I decided to find out what local authorities are planning to do in response to this.
I submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 366 taxi licensing councils, and Transport for London (who administer taxi licensing on behalf of all the London boroughs.)
Here are some of the results:
Only 41% of British taxi licensing authorities either have a list or have a plan to create one this financial year. It’s particularly bad in Scotland, where only 25% are taking it up.
26% of authorities have actively decided not to work towards such a list at the moment.
In areas that don’t create a list, wheelchair users can continue to be overcharged. Even if they report it, the driver won’t face the legal penalty.
My report and data can be downloaded in full from my blog: https://www.kingqueen.org.uk/s167/
There is hope.
Pressure and publicity from disabled people and their allies has already made some authorities decide to implement the law. For example, out of 7 councils contacted by the Disability News Service following my initial research results, 5 councils (Oldham, Epping Forest, Stratford-on-Avon, Suffolk Coastal, and Waveney councils) changed their policy.
If your council hasn’t yet committed to implementing this anti-discrimination legislation, contacting them might cause them to change their tune. Check if they’re on this list. Your contact point would be the councillors for your area on the District or Unitary council, or your London Assembly member.
You can use WriteToThem to find the right person: https://www.writetothem.com/
Please use your own words, but you may wish to include some of the following points:
– Taxis are essential for disabled people’s quality of life, especially given the barriers disabled people experience with other forms of transport.
– Creating a list is a relatively minor bureaucratic procedure that sends a clear message that wheelchair users have the right to travel by taxi without discrimination.
– The Government’s Statutory Guidance strongly recommends councils produce a list, because “without such a list the requirements of section 165 of the Act do not apply, and drivers may continue to refuse the carriage of wheelchair users, fail to provide them with assistance, or to charge them extra.”
– The licensing body should create a list even if all taxis licensed by them are wheelchair accessible. Simply stating “all the taxis we license are wheelchair accessible” doesn’t have the desired effect of putting taxi drivers under a legal duty to take wheelchair users and not to charge extra for doing so.
– It is important to create a list even if there are very few accessible taxis. It is perhaps even more important that drivers of such taxis don’t discriminate against wheelchair users.
Additionally, you may choose to tweet your local council. Muscular Dystrophy UK suggest “Taxis are not a luxury for disabled people. Will you support the equality act and make your taxis accessible? #section167fail”
By Doug Paulley