A new law, which comes into force from 6th April 2017, was announced on 7th February stating that Taxi drivers could face a fine of up to £1,000 if they discriminate against wheelchair users.
Transport Minister, Andrew Jones, outlined the new law, which will ensure that private hire vehicle drivers are obliged to transport wheelchair users in their wheelchair; provide passengers in wheelchairs with appropriate assistance; and charge wheelchair users the same as non-wheelchair users.
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.”
Applying to taxis throughout England, Wales and Scotland, the affected vehicles are designated as wheelchair accessible, which includes all London taxis and a significant number in most major urban centres. The new law will apply to both taxis and private hire vehicles.
Any driver found to be breaking the new law, could face fines of up to £1,000 as part of provisions being enacted from the Equality Act. Drivers may also have their taxi or private hire vehicle (PHV) licence suspended or revoked by their licencing authority. However, drivers who are unable to provide assistance for medical reasons will be able to apply to their licencing authority for an exemption.
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.”
Coming into force from 6th April, the new law will complement those already in place to prevent discrimination against users of assistance dogs and underline the government’s wide-ranging commitment to supporting inclusive transport networks. The government will also be consulting a draft “Accessibility Action Plan” later this year, which will aim to address the barriers faced by disabled people when using all modes of public transport.
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