For a taxi to be considered wheelchair accessible, it should have a lift or ramp to assist the wheelchair user with getting into and out of the vehicle.
However, research has suggested that there may only be one wheelchair accessible taxi per 1000 people in close to around 80% of England’s local authorities – mainly concentrated in major urban areas. Additionally, in some local authorities, part or all of taxi fleets are not required to be wheelchair accessible.
Currently, the majority of UK taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) are standard saloon cars which, while accessible to the majority of the population, including wheelchair users who can transfer to the vehicle with the driver placing their wheelchair in the boot, they are not accessible for people who need to remain seated in their wheelchair for the journey.
London-style taxis and some people carriers have been adapted to be wheelchair accessible vehicles or WAVs which means that they can offer a taxi service to users who are unable to transfer from wheelchair to vehicle.
Though there are around 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK (the equivalent of around 1 in 56 people) according to the research, London had 2.3 accessible taxis per thousand people but only 12 cities were found to have in excess of 1 accessible taxi per thousand people.
At the time of the research, Wakefield had only 0.1 accessible taxi per thousand people making it the least accessible city, while Liverpool faired best with almost 3 accessible taxis per hundred thousand people.
According to government guidelines, a vehicle can be designated accessible if it is possible for a client to “enter, leave and travel in the passenger compartment in safety and reasonable comfort whilst seated in their wheelchair…” However, not all wheelchairs allow this, so some wheelchair users find themselves still unable to access what is an accessible taxi.
Nevertheless, according to the research, the number of local authorities requiring part or all of a taxi fleet to be wheelchair accessible has risen, as has the number of authorities requiring disability awareness training for taxi drivers so there appears to be some progress made.
The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) believes that taxi and PHV services should be fully accessible to disabled travellers and have set out a proposed framework for achieving such a service.