We were recently asked how taxis in York work, or don’t work, for the disability community. This is what you told us. Primarily wheelchair users responded to us so the comments mainly reflect that experience. We are anecdotely aware that blind and visually impaired people find taxis very useful.
There was one good experience reported: Streamline were great and often squeezed them in, even when Streamline were really busy. As this person got to know the WAV (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle) drivers, they were able to build up a good rapport with them. It was also reported that the electric london cabs are good.
However, most people had negative responses and there seem to be some key themes:
- Unreliable: Not being able to rely on the services means building in failure and back ups
- Unavailable: Lack of available wheelchair vehicles, especially at certain points when there can be none available on a regular basis
- Attitudes from drivers and the call handlers
- The vehicles themselves
- Booking: Having to book further in advance than non disabled people and not being able to book online
“I have a powerchair which I use independently, and a manual chair which requires someone to push me as I can’t self propel, this means unless my destination includes meeting someone or travelling with someone, I have to travel in my powerchair.” (Note, direct quotes only used where we have clear permission)
“However, it’s difficult to book a powerchair accessible taxi and I’ve had so many cancel on me at the last minute that I can’t rely on them to travel. This means I have to build into my plans enough time to panic and get to my destination another way, or only book taxis when I can cancel my plans.”
Another person told us about how sometimes they’d get told the wheelchair taxi was no longer available and they’d send a standard car.
Agreeing to bookings without appropriate vehicles being available has led to people being late to appointments or having to cancel them.
Wheelchair accessible taxis seem to be entirely unavailable during the school run. This affects people’s ability to use taxi’s to get to and from work. One of our members feels this was a key factor in her having to stop working. Further, if she got to work ok, she wasn’t always able to get home – a taxi cancelling on her at the end of the day left her stranded a number of times.
Further to the lack of available wheelchair accessible taxis during the school run, there are also not many running at night and they require prebooking. This means you have to decide, before you go out for a drink or whatever, when you want to return home. Non disabled people don’t have to do that, they can turn up at a taxi rank and know they will get home. The lack of security about whether the taxi will turn up adds anxiety to a night out and means some people book a return journey home earlier than they’d like, to allow for it not to turn up and then having to frantically ring round and see if any taxi company can get me home.
At peak points such as Saturday nights, our members have also been told that they can’t book an accessible taxi as the call handler didn’t know if any would be available.
Taxi drivers, when making polite conversation, tend to ask inappropriate questions such as what did you do or what’s wrong with you.
One member used to travel to London by train in a powerchair and when booking for 5am or 6am, she’d get comments about it being really early and what was she doing up at that time. Her husband does not get those comments when booking for taxis for his own trips to the train station early in the morning. He doesn’t use a wheelchair.
On other occasions, it has also been assumed that she wouldn’t need an accessible taxi because it was so early. Sending an inappropriate taxi meant she has nearly missed her train, meaning she has to book taxis earlier to allow for errors.
Assumptions about wheelchairs themselves have meant people are refused a trip – eg a folding taxi was assumed to be not folding, or drivers refusing to lift a wheelchair into the boot.
Someone told us about a driver who had claimed to know better than the disabled person themselves and manouvered their leg in a way that caused significant pain. The driver then huffed and puffed about how long it took to get them in.
The call handlers have been rude to a number of our members – telling one that it was her fault they couldn’t get a vehicle to her as she hadn’t told them her needs when she had. Another reported having to ring repeatedly to ask where her taxi was when it was half an hour late and being made to feel like a pain for calling.
The vehicles themselves
A carer for a child with complex needs told us that the child won’t sit in the front of a taxi with a stranger (the driver) but as the parent is a wheelchair user and most accessible taxis only have space for the wheelchair user in the rear. This means they have to book very far in advance to get a much larger vehicle. This is also an issue for disabled parents who have very young children who need to be within reach of the parent.
The minibus style taxis have a little plastic step which is reported to be of little help.
What are your experiences with taxis and disability in York? Let us know in the comments.