Wheelchair Accessible Taxis and the Equality Act

 

Pie chart of S167 intent for Great Britain. Yes (Green): 41% No (Red): 59%.

Download report

Pie Chart for GB Licensing authorities. A Current S167 list: 11%. B Producing S167 list this financial year: 30%. C Producing S167 list but no clear deadline: 15%. D Undecided whether producing S167 list: 18%. E No current plans to produce S167 list: 26%. Yes - have a S167 list or intend one within this financial year (A or B). No: yet to decide /decided not to / not set a date. (C, D or E)

A “new” law requiring taxi drivers not to discriminate against wheelchair users was commenced 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.

It recommends 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.)

My report and data can be downloaded in full at the top of this page. It gives depressing 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. Wheelchair users will continue to be disempowered.

Map showing uptake of S167 across Great Britain

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.

Check out the interactive map to see what the situation is where you live.
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:


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.

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”

  10 Responses to “Wheelchair Accessible Taxis and the Equality Act”

  1. […] who administer taxi licensing on behalf of all the London boroughs. The results of his research can be seen in full here, or you can quickly check your own local council on this […]

  2. […] who administer taxi licensing on behalf of all the London boroughs. The results of his research can be seen in full here, or you can quickly check your own local council on this […]

  3. […] Taxi drivers who refuse wheelchair users or charge them more are breaking the law, but only if the Council / TFL has created a list of wheelchair accessible taxis. […]

  4. Thanks for the map, Doug.
    I’m not a wheelchair user but disappointed to find my council is one of those with no list or apparent plan to make one.
    My councillors will definitely be asked about it. It might help that one neighbouring authority already has a list & all others are intending to get one imminently, so your map is extremely useful.

  5. […] Wheelchair Accessible Taxis / Equality Act […]

  6. Hi Doug, I saw some of your data when researching local taxis. Please can you clarify, if possible, the legality of the New Forest’s check with the driver that the vehicle is suitable. I know some of our local taxi drivers claim their taxis are only suitable for manual wheelchairs and this has been promoted by the licensing authority in the recent past (ie before April but within the last 2 years). I am also aware that they have a tendency to claim to be unavailable if you try to book them and mention wheelchairs. Given that the bus to the local hospital stops before the appointments do and there isn’t even a pavement on the busy fast road to the hospital a taxi is an absolute necessity but difficult to enforce given the councils seeing their job as to support the drivers rather than the customers. And before you say patient transport, this is no good for accompanying or visiting patients – it’s also pretty terrible for wheelchair patients who get pressure sores whilst waiting many hours for the return transport. Thanks for your help with this.

    • I Am Not A Lawyer ™ but my understanding is that sadly there’s very little one can do to challenge such. Councils are left to make their own definition of “wheelchair accessible” taxis, and taxi drivers are given carte Blanche as to whether they will take any particular wheelchair user based on “health and safety”. Taxis will generally be expected to take the “reference wheelchair” of 70cmx120cm and max 300kg weight, but other than that it’s pretty wide open and there’s little that can be done when the taxis suddenly become “unavailable” when a wheelchair is mentioned (as also happens to me… https://youtu.be/JC3BoUfIP2c )
      New Forest have created a S167 list, http://forms.newforest.gov.uk/ufsatc/ufsmain?formid=WCVEHICLES_REGISTER&ebz=2_1501101035522&ebd=0&ebz=2_1501101035522 – but proving that one has refused the job (rather than simply not on duty) or that their claim they can’t take any specific wheelchair user “health and safety” is near impossible, in my view, and is a fundamental failure of this broken law.
      Awful and unacceptable isn’t it.

      • Hi Doug, Thanks for your super fast response. I am aware you are not a lawyer and wouldn’t dream of taking your advice as anything other than that of an expert by experience. Equally a lot of lawyers wouldn’t be able to signpost the relevant legislation half as well as you do. It’s a pity so much of it is needed I forgot to say how much I admire the work you do. As one of the beneficiaries of the improved services and attitudes you are largely responsible for I greatly appreciate everything you have done and I am amazed at your patience and persistence. As a result of your work I find the front line staff are generally helpful and apologetic, with the possible exception of Paddington and the complaints are usually about having to do someone ele’s job rather than us being a nuisance. I once sent an e-mail to Reading station explaining that they needed to give as much help as is requested/needed rather than treat wheelchair users like dementia patients and not allow them the same freedom of movement around the station as everyone else takes for granted. The change in attitude was immediate and amazing. It was clearly a case of making them see things from my point of view and they obviously incorporated it into their training immediately. There are still problems there but they are to do with poor communication and planning by the behind the scenes staff who often don’t get the information to the front line staff on time or expect them to be able to deal with passengers more quickly than is possible or to get from one end of the station to another in no time at all. The other battle is the “does he take sugar” one. I’m sure Stephen Hawking gets that a lot too. Just because my body’s a funny shape and twitches and I have hearing and speech difficulties doesn’t mean I’m stupid but that doesn’t seem to have penetrated the training yet and the worst offenders are healthcare staff who regularly ask my partner to give consent when I’m not even in the room and seem surprised when they’re told to ask me! They seem to see it as an unnecessary delay having to repeat themselves when it’s of their own making by not asking the right person in the first place. Sorry if I’ve slightly hijacked your blog but I really just wanted to thank you for your work making my life better.

        Best wishes,

        Paul

  7. […] Read Doug’s research to find out the extent of this issue and if your council is one of the  areas enforcing the new laws. To find out what you can do about this issue, check out Muscular Dystrophy UK’s campaign.  […]

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