The Welsh Assembly Government is conscious of the importance of taxis in meeting local transport needs and keen to develop their potential as part of our vision of a fully integrated transport network. We are also very aware of the vital importance of taxis for many disabled people, particularly those who may not be able to access conventional public transport services.
The Welsh Assembly Government supported the Department for Transport's consultation on exploring ways of improving access to taxis by disabled people. One of its outcomes was to take the opportunity presented by the Equality Act.
The Equality Act 2010 brings together in one Act a number of different pieces of legislation about discrimination - including disability discrimination. The new Act includes many of the taxi and private hire vehicles (PHV) provisions which were in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, but it also includes some important changes.
The Equality Act 2010 empowers the UK Government to make "Taxi Accessibility" Regulations so that disabled people may get into and out of taxis safely while in wheelchairs; and travel safely and in reasonable comfort in taxis while in wheelchairs. It has traditionally been difficult to develop technical specifications for taxis and PHVs but, following a 2009 consultation, the Department for Transport (DfT) has data to consider standards and deadlines.
One of the provisions in the Act when commenced, will tighten the law by placing duties on taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to provide assistance to people in wheelchairs. Drivers who suffer from a condition that make it difficult for them to provide assistance can apply from an exemption from those duties.
The Department for Transport have published guidance notes on their website and have been brought to the attention of all the taxi/licensing authorities and the principal taxi/PHV organisations.
Since 1 January 2000 all licensed taxis in London have had to be wheelchair accessible under separate legislation and many local authorities in other parts of the UK - mainly covering large urban areas - have since made similar regulations for licensed taxis in their areas. Outside these areas many taxis and minicabs are large saloon cars which are not wheelchair accessible.
But if a user can transfer from his or her wheelchair, most will take a folded wheelchair in the boot. Some taxi and PHV operators have 'people mover' or 'multi-purpose vehicles' (MPV's) with access for wheelchair users.
Passengers should contact the taxi licensing office at their local authority to find out whether there are wheelchair accessible taxis available in any particular area.
Hackney Carriages (licensed taxis) and Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs or mini cabs) can be booked in advance for door-to-door journeys, but only licensed taxis may wait at a taxi rank and pick up passengers after being flagged-down. More than half of the Hackney Carriage fleet in Cardiff are accessible. Some PHVs are accessible, but it is at the discretion of operators and also depends on the model and capacity of the vehicle.
Taxis and PHVs (minicabs) are required to carry Guide and Hearing Dogs as well as dogs trained by Dogs for the Disabled, Support Dogs and Canine Partners. Dogs must be allowed to stay with their owners and be carried at no extra charge. Drivers are told how to identify these dogs, so it is important that they wear their harness or jacket showing the name of the training charity.
The only exempt drivers are those with a proven medical condition such as Asthma, that may be made worse by contact with dogs. If so, the licensing authority will issue the driver with a 'Notice of Exemption' certificate which must be displayed on the windscreen or dashboard of the vehicle. This notice will have a large ED (Exemption Dogs) printed on it and will show the drivers licence number. Detailed information is available on DPTAC's website. The Committee also produces a travel guide for disabled people, named "Door to Door".