“Wheelchair accessible” Taxis and School Transport

People who know me know that I’m the largest land mammal in the world. As such I struggle somewhat to get into most supposedly “accessible” taxis. I end up with my shoulders rammed against the ceiling; together with facing backwards it’s a recipe for discomfort and car-sickness.

dishevelledcabI thus prefer to use minibus taxis (or buses, though the less said about that the better…)

The problem is that between about 7:30am and 9:30 am, and between 2:30pm and 4:30pm, on most weekdays, it’s pretty much impossible to book wheelchair accessible minibuses in Leeds, because they are all already booked.

Word on the street (well, in the taxis) was that this is because the school transport service used them to transport pupils. So I thought I’d put in a Freedom of Information Request to Leeds council to find out exactly what the situation is.

The answer is that Leeds city council use an average of 255 taxis and private-hire vehicles every school day to take disabled kids to school; rising to a maximum of 291. Of those vehicles, an average of 57 are wheelchair accessible minibuses; rising to a maximum of 62. Leeds has a total of 61 private hire wheelchair accessible minibuses, and no wheelchair accessible minibus taxis.

The council use all available private hire wheelchair accessible minibuses every school day. They have done so for years, in my experience. This raises the following questions.

  • Why doesn’t Leeds City Council provide enough wheelchair accessible minibuses to take disabled kids to school? Surely it’d be cheaper?
  • Does Leeds City Council not give a stuff about other disabled people who might need the private hire wheelchair accessible minibuses?

I suspect the answer to the last one is “no” but I can’t prove it yet as the Council haven’t provided their impact assessment in a readable form.

The response provided more statistics that may be of interest. I list them below for all and sundry to pore over like the boring sod I am, but the headline figure is that of the 4,170 taxis and private hire vehicles, under 8% are wheelchair accessible; and less than 3% of private hire vehicles. “Purple pound” eh.

[table class=”table-striped” border=”2″ colalign=”center|center|center|center” caption=”Hackney Carriages (Taxis) in Leeds” width=”auto”] Seats,Accessible,Non-accessible,%
5 to 7,92,4,95.83%
[table class=”table-striped” border=”2″ colalign=”center|center|center|center” caption=”Private Hire Vehicles in Leeds” width=”auto”] Seats,Accessible,Non-accessible,%
5 to 7,10,227,4.22%
[table class=”table-striped” border=”2″ colalign=”center|center|center|center” caption=”All Taxis and Private Hire in Leeds” width=”auto”] Seats,Accessible,Non-accessible,%
5 to 7,102,231,30.63%
[table width=”auto” class=”table-striped” border=”2″ colalign=”center|center|center|center|center|center” caption=”Vehicle Usage for Pupil Transport”] ,Taxi,People carrier,Inaccessible Minibus,Accessible Minibus,Total