For many disabled people who are unable to drive or use public transport, such as buses and trains, the use of taxis and private hire vehicles is essential in enabling them to get around. Both taxis and private hire vehicles are able to be booked in advance for a door-to-door booking, but only a licensed taxi can be hailed in the street or can pick up from a taxi rank.
Travelling By Taxi For Wheelchair Users
In London, along with some other large cities, all licensed taxis (black cabs) are accessible to wheelchair users. These vehicles use a convenient fold down ramp that allows a dignified entrance into the vehicle by wheelchair users. Private hire vehicles, which usually consist of a family saloon car, are generally not wheelchair user accessible unless you are able to get out of your wheelchair and sit in the car. Your wheelchair can be carried in the car boot.
There are some private hire companies that have ‘people mover’ vehicles in their fleet which are often able to carry wheelchair users. To discover if your area has wheelchair accessible taxis contact the local licensing officer at your local council.
It is important that you never travel sideways in a taxi and that the brake of the wheelchair has been applied. Failure to do so could result in serious injury if the taxi has to brake sharply or is involved in an accident. If your wheelchair is of the powered variety make sure that the power unit has been switched off and the wheelchair is not in freewheel mode.
Using a wheelchair accessible taxi is an obvious choice for wheelchair users, but if you have difficulty climbing steps or holding handrails it may be preferable to ride in a saloon vehicle .The modern black cabs do, however, have an additional step combined with a swivel seat that enables you to sit down before swinging yourself around in the vehicle. They also have easy release interior door handles for passengers who lack dexterity in their hands
Travelling By Taxi For The Blind And Visually Impaired
If you are blind or visually impaired it is possible to obtain a TAXI sign to assist you in hailing a taxi in the street. These signs are available from the Royal National Institute for the Blind. Inside most black cabs there are grab handles of contrasting colours making them easier to locate for those passengers who are visually impaired.
It is a legal requirement that both taxis and private hire vehicles carry assistance dogs and the dogs must be allowed to stay with their owners and be carried at no extra charge. Drivers can identify these dogs by their harness or jacket. Some drivers, who suffer from proven medical conditions, such as asthma, which may be aggravated by dogs are issued with an notice of exemption by the licensing authority. The notice of exemption must be displayed on the windscreen or dashboard of the vehicle and will have a large ED(for exemption dogs)printed on it
For taxi passengers who are hearing impaired some of the newer black cabs have induction loops fitted