A PORTSMOUTH charity has urged the city council to protect wheelchair users from discrimination by taxi drivers.
Enable Ability is keen to see Portsmouth City Council hold taxi drivers and private hire drivers to account if they are found to treat wheelchair users differently to non-wheelchair users by means of a list system.
The list, known as a section 167, would oblige drivers by law to transport wheelchair users in their wheelchair, provide wheelchair users with appropriate assistance and charge wheelchair users the same as non-wheelchair users for journeys. Failure to comply could lead to fines of up to £1,000.
Jon Muller, chair of trustees at Enable Ability, was hopeful the council would act soon.
He said: ‘As a charity that supports hundreds of disabled people across Portsmouth we would welcome an early positive decision on this.
‘Equal opportunities to have access to a wide range of community facilities is vital. People with disabilities have just as much right as everyone else to them and the means to get there such as using taxis is critically important.’
Calls for change came after a nationwide study carried out by Muscular Dystrophy UK revealed that Portsmouth City Council was one of 18 councils in the south east that has not yet got a list, however with plans to instate the list in the future. It also showed that almost half of councils in the south east had fewer than 10 wheelchair accessible vehicles.
A council spokesman confirmed the council was in talks to instate a section 167 list. He said: ‘We take very seriously any complaint about drivers refusing to carry passengers in wheelchairs. Whilst it is rare to receive such complaints, the council has recently prosecuted a driver for such actions, who received a fine and costs.
‘Portsmouth has over 100 fully wheelchair-accessible vehicles. The question of determining the exact composition of any list requires a detailed consideration of all vehicles to ensure that as many as possible meet any locally prescribed accessibility requirements.
‘Equally, any taxi drivers with medical conditions which could limit their ability to carry wheelchairs would need to apply for an exemption. ‘In this respect, the council is likely to consider the formulation of a locally prescribed WAV policy but only after further consultation with trade representatives, Portsmouth Disability Forum and other partners.’
Although the list is not mandatory it was recommended by government as part of changes to the Equality Act with a suggested deadline of October last year. Fareham and Gosport Borough Councils were also found to not have a list in place yet. Havant Borough Council has already created a list.