PEOPLE with disabilities in Warwick district will not be protected by a new law ensuring equal treatment for taxi users.
A change in the equality act in April this year means taxi drivers face a fine of up to £1,000 if they refuse to transport wheelchair users or attempt to charge them extra.
But the law only applies to drivers registered on council lists of wheelchair accessible taxis, known as Section 167 lists.
To date, Warwick District Council has made no plans to introduce such a list, leaving wheelchair users in Warwick at risk of facing overpriced rides and difficulty booking trips.
Stratford District Council has said the Section 167 list is something it will look into – but not anytime soon: ‘Our work prioritisation means that it will not be completed in the very immediate future, but will be in the longer term’ (April 2017).
As it stands, both councils could miss the recommended government deadline of October 2017 to complete the lists.
Disability activist Doug 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 their own deadline for creating a list.
Doug explained: “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.”
Research by Muscular Dystrophy UK indicated that a quarter of disabled people have been refused service by a taxi driver, purely because they are disabled.
Nic Bungay, director of campaigns, care and information at Muscular Dystrophy UK, which lobbied for years for the law change, said: “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.
“We need councils 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.”