In one of the first blog posts on this website, originally published some 5 years ago, I leveled a strong accusation: Taxi companies and local governments are forcing disabled people into the shadows.
The failure of federal, state and local governments in the United States to require taxi companies to provide accessible cab service has left many wheelchair users without transportation. There are major cities in the United States, such as Dallas, Texas and St. Louis, Missouri, where it has proved impossible to get a wheelchair taxi. In countless other cities both small and large, taxis cannot be ordered on demand and must be reserved 24 hours in advance, with no guarantee that they will actually turn up.
Some governments have gone the extra mile, though. In New York City, a goal was set to make 50% of cabs wheelchair accessible by 2020. They are plentiful and easy to secure at all hours of the day. In London, 100% of the iconic black cabs have a wheelchair ramp.
One city, Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom, has taken a further step to ensure accessible taxi service for wheelchair users. As reported by TaxiPoint, the Wolverhampton Council implemented a “mystery shopper” exercise to check the service standards of cab drivers serving wheelchair users.
Mystery shoppers were required to fill out a questionnaire about their cab and private hire car journeys, the results of which were tabulated and released to the public. Questions focused on safety, accessibility and the driver’s attitude. Two drivers were found not to have properly secured the wheelchair in the taxi cab. As a result, they were called to appear at a hearing and required to complete a training course.
Although Wolverhampton is a small city, with a population of about 250,000, this initiative is proof that even small cities can demand a higher level of accessibility and service for the disabled. Cities in the United States should take note — it is time to step up and guarantee equal access for all. It can and should be done.