A WHEELCHAIR user has hit back after ‘unacceptable’ behaviour from taxi drivers left her on the verge of tears.
Debbie Cardoza has been disabled for 10 years, using a powered chair to get around, and has never had a problem with drivers.
However, a few weeks ago when the 52-year-old was shopping in Gosport she was refused service by several people.
She said: ‘We were completely snubbed and left on the side of the taxi rank.
‘Eventually one of the drivers at the front of the rank radioed another company.
‘Two weeks later I did some shopping and then had a doctor’s appointment and the same thing happened again.’
A tearful Debbie felt intimidated as the group of drivers got ‘quite rowdy’ with her, she said.
‘Half an hour later I was really pretty upset,’ said Debbie, who was late to her appointment.
‘In the 10 years that I have been disabled I have never had to kick up a fuss. I just find it totally unacceptable.’
Things escalated when Debbie used a private firm and a driver took control of her chair as she left because he said he was ‘quicker’.
Debbie said: ‘He launched me backwards and for that split second I thought I was falling out the back. Nobody has ever taken control of my chair before.
‘He swung the footrests round and it hit my bad leg. It’s my worst leg and it really did hurt. I was on the point of crying.’
The driver threw the coins back that she had tried to pay with.
Debbie has received an apology for this from the firm but wants to make sure other people are not experiencing discrimination.
Ian Rickman, head of environmental health for Gosport Borough Council, said: ‘We take issues like this extremely seriously, and began an investigation into this complaint last week.
‘Drivers must not discriminate against people with disabilities, although they can decline to take a passenger if they have a valid reason – for example, if their taxi doesn't have the right adaptations to make the journey safe.’
Meanwhile, rules have been tightened at Portsmouth City Council to criminalise those refusing to take wheelchair users.