Picking up disabled passengers – what taxi drivers need to know

Wheelchair accessible taxi

There have been a number of news stories recently in which taxi drivers have been either banned or penalised for failing to adhere to the proper regulations and rules surrounding carrying disabled passengers. In general, as long as you’re treating disabled people with the respect that they deserve as a fellow human being you should be fine, but just what are the rules that taxi drivers need to know about picking up disabled passengers?

Black cabs and disabled passengers

All black cabs are required to be wheelchair accessible. No hackney driver is allowed to refuse to carry a disabled person, their wheelchair or their guide dog as applicable. Drivers are also not permitted to levy additional charges for transporting guide dogs or wheelchairs.

You must also not start the meter running until after a disabled passenger has been helped into the vehicle via the ramp.

Private hire taxis and disabled passengers

Like black cab drivers, private hire operators and mini cab firms cannot refuse to carry a passenger who is disabled without ‘reasonable grounds’. However not all are required to be wheelchair accessible and as many private hire vehicles are saloons, it is usually necessary for disabled passengers to book an appropriate wheelchair accessible vehicle in advance. All drivers with wheelchair access have specific obligations to wheelchair users and those with guide dogs under the Equality Act 2010.

However in some areas of the country there has been controversy recently over taxi drivers charging disabled passengers more. In Nottingham a woman in a wheelchair was charged three times the amount that her friends paid for a taxi after a night out for her sister’s hen party. The incident led local MP Ian Austin to write to the Government’s equality minister to ask it to enforce the Equalities Act and to ensure that taxi companies charge disabled passengers the same.

Under the act, all taxi drivers and private hire drivers with wheelchair accessible vehicles must:

  • Carry passengers seated in their wheelchair
  • Carry the wheelchair separately if requested to by the passenger
  • Charge the same fare as for non-wheelchair users
  • Take all necessary steps to ensure the passenger’s safety and comfort
  • Provide assistance in and out of the vehicle, ‘as is reasonably required’
  • Carry any assistance dogs, allow them to travel with the passenger and not charge ay additional fees for the service.

Transport for London has a helpful document that explains more about taxi driver’s responsibilities.

Taxi driver suspended

Sticking to the rules is important not just to ensure equality, but also to make sure that disabled passengers are conveyed safely. A taxi driver in Carlisle recently had his license suspended for two months after it emerged that he had failed to strap a disabled woman’s wheelchair into his cab.  It was found that he had left the wheelchair in ‘a dangerous sideways position’ and had failed to stop it moving during the journey. He must also attend disability awareness training, and will have his license revoked if he is in trouble again.

Incidents such as this are a potent reminder that taxi drivers need to be mindful of the needs of the disabled, and the related regulations. You should also consider taxi insurance with public liability cover, to protect yourself financially in the event that a passenger is injured while in your cab.