Taxi drivers who discriminate against wheelchair users, or attempt to charge them extra, could face fines of up to £1,000, the UK Government has announced today (Tuesday).
From the 6 April this year (2017), taxi and private hire vehicle drivers will be legally obliged to transport wheelchair users in their wheelchair, provide appropriate assistance where needed, and charge them the same as non-wheelchair users.
Failure to comply with the new rules could land drivers in hot water, including a hefty fine and having their license suspended or revoked.
The new law applies to England, Scotland and Wales and covers both taxis and private hire vehicles, in a move the transport minister says will ensure “fair and equal treatment for all”. Those who are unable to provide assistance due to medical reasons can apply for exemption from the new rules.
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “We want to build a country that works for everyone, and part of that is ensuring disabled people have the same access to services and opportunities as anyone else – including when it comes to travel.
“People who use wheelchairs are often heavily reliant on taxis and private hire vehicles and this change to the law will mean fair and equal treatment for all.”
All taxis in London are already wheelchair accessible, according to the UK Government, and the new rule aims to guarantee the same applies across Britain.
The government says it will be consulting on a draft ‘Accessibility action plan’ later this year, as part of a new drive to address the barriers faced by disabled people in accessing all forms of public transport.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Robert Meadowcroft, Chief Executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “This is a victory for all people with disabilities who experience daily struggles with accessible transport.
“Being able to get from A to B is usually very easy for most people, however we know that this can be a challenge that affects a disabled person’s entire life, including their ability to have a job and play an active part in society.
“This is a positive and very welcome step in the right direction which we hope will not affect the number of accessible taxis being made available by companies because of the duties now being placed on to drivers.
“Muscular Dystrophy UK and our Trailblazers have been campaigning on this issue for many years, and we commend the government for listening to the views of disabled people.”
Transport for All’s director, Faryal Velmi, added: “Through enacting section 19 of the Equality Act finally disabled people will have protection in law against such discriminatory and unfair practices.
“We now urge the government to ensure that more is done to incentivise the private hire vehicle industry so to increase the amount of wheelchair accessible cabs.”