A guest blog by my excellent co-campaigner and friend Esther. Please share awareness of this and bring pressure on easyJet to do the decent thing.
Just before Christmas I went on a phenomenal holiday to Egypt.
On the way home, it was ruined by Easyjet who messed up the boarding at Hurghada so I was carried on to the plane last (it’s supposed to be first) in a totally humiliating fashion, meaning other passengers had to move and I was holding up the plane. Then, it got worse; they smashed up my travel wheelchair. Now, they’re refusing to fix or replace it as they say the ‘Montreal Convention’ limits how much they can pay to fix ‘baggage’. Thing is, it’s not baggage; it’s my mobility. It’s my way of getting around. It’s an object of freedom. And they smashed it up so surely they should put it right?
The chair had been carefully wrapped in packing plastic by my assistant, but when I picked it up, someone had tried to force it out of the plastic (rather than either leaving it for me to sort OR cutting it) putting enormous forces through the brackets which hold the backrest to the seat. Before I even got near it, when it was still on the concrete, the man driving the ‘ambulift’ (thing that takes wheelchair using passengers off planes) said ‘that looks totally wrong’ because the backrest was bent, handles at 45 degree angles etc.
The ‘chair is an Icon A1. It’s adjustable and custom to my needs. The specialist seating I need used to fit on it, but not it’s so bent it’s unusable. I can’t travel anywhere, and when my power chair is having work done on it or something, I’ve no mobility at all as this ‘chair is my travel/backup one. It had served me so well – enabling me to travel across the world, go diving with amazing fish at a disabled diving school, go out and go in the sea… and yet Easyjet couldn’t get it through an airport without destroying it.
Easyjet, it’s on you; please get me a suitable replacement or more likely a whole new chair as the frame itself has been bent.
Please share – it’s simply unacceptable for companies to smash up mobility devices. They’re not ‘baggage’ in the usual sense.
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.
It recommended local authorities create their lists by October 2017.
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) in April 2017 and in October 2017.
Map of my data by Jeff Harvey of Transport for All shows which authorities have a S167 list (green), plan to produce one (yellow) or have no current plan to do so (red).
Only 51% of British taxi licensing authorities either had a list or have a plan to create one this financial year. It’s particularly bad in Scotland where only 28% 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. Wheelchair users will continue to be disempowered.
Even where authorities have created a list, the law is not enforced. There are 30,298 wheelchair accessible hackney carriages licensed by the 119 authorities that have implemented S167 of the Act. Yet no driver has faced enforcement action under the legislation, one year after it was commenced.
It is disappointing that many councils are undermining the Government’s intent in bringing in this legislation, by their failure to undertake the required office work. Their inaction means that taxi drivers can continue to discriminate against wheelchair users with impunity.
In much of the UK, councils have no clear plan to implement the anti-discrimination law.
All is not lost.
Pressure and publicity from disabled people and their allies has already made some authorities decide to implement the law. For example, of the seven dissident councils contacted by the Disability News Service following my initial research results, five councils (Oldham, Epping Forest, Stratford-on-Avon, Suffolk Coastal, and Waveney councils) changed their policy.
If your council has yet to commit to implementing this anti-discrimination legislation, (you can check in my data tables above) contacting them may well cause them to change their tune. 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 identify and contact the relevant ones, by putting your postcode in this box:
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.
Fleur Perry has written a template letter which may be useful to inspire you in your message.
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”