Against a backdrop of nationwide debate surrounding wheelchair accessible taxis, has Uber launched the future of disabled travel? Below www.wheelchaircars.co.uk, the UK’s number one choice for used wheelchair accessible vehicles summarises the arguments.
The controversial firm Uber, has this month launched its first fleet of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles operating across Greater London. All UberWAV vehicles will come with a rear entry ramp, winch and restraints. All of UberWAV’s drivers have been given disability equality training from both Transport for Alland Inclusion London whilst pricing for the new service will remain the same as a normal UberX ride.
Uber’s recent launch directly challenges the black cab industry in London. Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association outlines his view in his October 2015 letter to the Guardian:
Unlike private hire firms, (taxi regulations) ensure that our drivers are UK taxpayers, comprehensively insured, undertake the famous ‘Knowledge’ test instead of relying on a sat nav and have taxis that are the only form of public transport in London that is 100% wheelchair accessible’
Uber has responded during the announcements of its new service, claiming that it: ‘Will give wheelchair users an additional way of getting from A to B with fares on average 30% cheaper than black cabs’ In a futile bid to appease black cab drivers, Uber has offered black-cab drivers use of their service, free of charge for a full year.
Further to the wheelchair transport debate across London, taxi drivers, unions and federations nationwide, are locked into debates with local authorities regarding the attempts to increase the number of wheelchair accessible taxis on the UK’s roads. Below, we examine some of the debates happening across the UK:
Recently the Irish National Transport Authority has reported that only 5% of taxis across the country are wheelchair accessible, despite 13% of the Irish population living with a disability. Furthermore, despite recent efforts to increase the amount of accessible taxis on the road, the number of wheelchair access taxis has decreased by almost 40% since 2008. The NTA reports that they are planning to increase the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles through restricting new taxi licences to wheelchair accessible vehicles only.
In April, Aberdeen council reported that they wanted all Hackney drivers to drive wheelchair accessible vehicles by 2017. This demand has been met with a furious response from local Aberdeen taxi drivers, many of whom maintain that they cannot afford to replace their vehicles with more expensive wheelchair friendly vehicles. Unite the union has weighed into the debate, claiming that the city already has enough wheelchair friendly vehicles – 500 to be precise. The decision to delay a decision on the movement was made on the 11th may.
After successful talks, it has been agreed that 20% of all taxis in Jersey will have to become wheelchair friendly. The decision has been made following discussions between the department for infrastructure and the taxicab industry, who are both optimistic about the changes.
Peter Mundy, Managing Director at wheelchaircars.co.uk commented:
We welcome the news that local authorities are looking to increase the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles on our roads. Many of our customers report their frustrations at the lack of understanding from taxi companies. We firmly believe that taxi companies are not proactive enough in providing a service for the 2% of our population who use a wheelchair.
One of the main arguments authorities are facing from taxi drivers and their unions is the fact that wheelchair accessible taxis are more expensive than regular vehicles. Having sold a range of wheelchair accessible vehicles over the last 20 years, we know that wheelchair accessible vehicles are affordable for taxi companies both large and small. Reliable, low mileage examples of wheelchair accessible vehicles can be purchased for as little as £5,000.