Over half of councils in the UK have been unable to enforce a new law ensuring equal treatment of disabled taxi users.
A change in the Equality Act enacted in April this year means that taxi drivers face a fine of up to £1,000 if they refuse to transport wheelchair users or attempt to charge them extra.
A study carried out by disability activist Doug Paulley found that 59% of councils were unable to ensure equal treatment while only 11% were able to enforce the new law.
Paulley said: “It is disappointing that the government’s intent in bringing in this legislation is being undermined by the failure of many councils to undertake the required office work, meaning that taxi drivers can continue to discriminate against wheelchair users with impunity.”
The law only applies to drivers registered on council lists of wheelchair accessible taxis, known as Section 167 lists. The Department for Transport has recommended that councils have them complete by this October, but less than half plan on doing so.
11% have completed lists while 30% claim they are intending to do so, leaving 59% with no firm plans to construct a list, including 26% admitting to having no plans to create a list at all.
Paulley and charity Muscular Dystrophy UK, which campaigns for disability rights, are calling on the government to make councils take their responsibilities seriously, and for all councils to set a deadline for creating a list.
“Taxis are not a luxury for disabled people – they often represent the only way to get from A to B when public transport isn’t accessible,” said Nic Bungay, director of campaigns, care and information at Muscular Dystrophy UK.
“Doug’s research comprehensively demonstrates how many councils are failing to ensure that disabled passengers are not penalised. We need them all to implement lists now as per the government’s recommendations, and for the Department for Transport to promote the lists as a matter of urgency.”
Paulley added: “While conducting this research, it became clear that many councils simply didn’t think to create them until prompted. I recommend disabled people and their allies raise the issue with their local council.”
The research also found that 40% of councils have under 10% of their vehicles registered as wheelchair accessible, with 15 having no wheelchair-accessible taxis registered at all, and only 30% of councils require taxi drivers to take part in disability awareness training.