This June saw the launch of the final report of the Extra Costs Commission, a year-long independent inquiry into the extra costs faced by disabled people. Scope research indicates that these costs amount to an average of £550 a month.
As part of its investigation, the Commission focussed on five key areas of extra cost. Alongside clothing and bedding, specialised equipment, energy and insurance, the Commission identified that many disabled people spend a lot of money on taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs).
The Commission found that disabled people are 67 per cent more reliant on taxis and PHVs than non-disabled people. This may be due to a number of reasons, including situations where public transport is inaccessible or in short supply, or cases where someone’s impairment may cause them to become agitated in public environments, such as epilepsy or autism.
Disabled people may face a number of issues whilst travelling by taxi or PHV. For example, two thirds of wheelchair users report that they have been charged more by drivers because of their wheelchair.
The lack of accessible vehicles is another issue – less than half of taxis in England and Wales are accessible once London is removed, whilst only three per cent of PHVs are accessible. A shortage of accessible vehicles can limit market competitiveness from which non-disabled people benefit.
Another problem is varying attitudes and standards amongst taxi and PHV drivers with regards to disability, which can lead to difficulties for disabled passengers whilst travelling. As part of the research one disabled person told us:
“I am always charged a lot extra for taxis…I am expected to pay, on average, £10 extra for a taxi journey…that’s if you can get one.”
How can we improve private hire services for disabled people?
Following a review by the Law Commission into how laws relating to taxis and PHVs could be changed, the Commission has called upon the Government to adopt the recommendations from this that relate to disability. These concentrate on things such as strengthening disability awareness training for drivers and increasing the proportion of accessible vehicles.
There have been various bits of activity to improve taxi and PHV service provision for disabled people following the Commission’s final report.
Recently, one of the Commissioners, James Moore, spoke at a Local Government Association event about his experiences of taxis and PHVs as a disabled passenger. This was a useful opportunity to highlight the Commission’s findings on the taxi and PHV industry and disability.
Additionally, Scope has been participating in a review by the House of Lords into the impact of the Equality Act 2010 on disabled people. Scope has submitted written and oral evidence to this review, which has covered the Commission’s recommendations for driving down the cost of taxis and PHVs for disabled passengers.
Lastly, Uber this week launched a new addition to their app called UberASSIST, which is designed to give disabled people additional assistance they may require whilst travelling. Available initially in London, a series of Uber’s drivers have undertaken disability equality training to deliver this service. Further down the line, Uber hope to begin providing fully accessible vehicles.
Scope will be continuing its influencing work around taxis and PHVs to tackle the challenges that disabled people can experience in accessing these services.