Disability, My Life, Travel

Disability Education – Taxis

Vne thing that I struggle to do is journey out in public due to the distances I have to travel.  To get to a destination and because of having limited access to my adapted vehicle I rely on taxi services to get me to and from places. I have become a regular with my local taxi company in Birmingham and since then I haven’t faced nearly as many as difficulties as before I found them. I call them to order a taxi and upon giving them my address, they know its me and the type of taxi and requirements I need. 

Being in an electric wheelchair causes me to order a bigger size taxi to ensure that my wheelchair fits properly, however there are limited availability of the bigger taxis and this can prevent me from getting one on time. 

To get a higher chance of getting one of the bigger taxis, I try and plan my journeys and book in advance. Though this can work, there are times where I still can’t get these taxis due to limited availability. This can get considerably annoying and frustrating as we make sure we call up in advance, it still happens. 

Unfortunately this causes me to struggle to go out and I stay home instead. In my opinion, this is an aspect needs addressing urgently as it causes me so much unnecessary stress and I am not one to just sit around at home, day in, day out, looking out the window at the outside world. 

I want to get out like anyone my age and enjoy life to the fullest extent I can. In a perfect world, the bigger taxis should just be kept for those who are in more need of it, like wheelchair users like me. 

However its not a perfect world so in the meantime a greater number of the bigger taxis should be introduced so those who are in wheelchairs – especially electric wheelchair users have a greater chance to acquire a taxi.

In general, calling taxis from my house isn’t much of a problem but I do really struggle is when I’m out in public trying to get taxi home. I notice the difficulties most when I’m outside train stations. I have exited train stations to see whole lines of taxis waiting for customers. 

As soon as someone approaches the taxi rank, they accept them without even raising an eyebrow at how many of them there are or at the amount of luggage or bags they have. Often when I leave the train station or shopping centre, I see some taxi drivers twiddling their thumbs, possibly bored after waiting so long for a customer to use their taxis, but when taxi drivers see me approach them, and they see my wheelchair, I receive a dirty look (and that’s putting it mildly). 

Admittedly there are some who are reliable, friendly and always willing to help me in taxis and throughout the journey then out again at our destination. I have come across many taxi drives who are less patient than others and very rude, but the majority of drivers are rude or blatantly ignore me, communicating through pointing and grunts. 

They don’t ask where I’m going to or attempt to try fitting my chair in their taxi, they automatically tell me to go to the taxi that’s next in line. Taxi drivers need serious lessons in customer and people skills and basic communication skills. I admit that some drivers feel slightly anxious when they see the size of my wheelchair. 

I have seen taxi drivers turn away a few people in manual wheelchairs. I respect that taxi drivers become very cautious and worried about transporting people with these needs, but that doesn’t excuse the attitudes. A number drivers who I approach in public are selfish idiots. 

They refuse to get out of the driver’s side to help those with disabilities into their taxis. I have been met with comments and questions asking if I could transfer out of my chair and get in the taxi to travel, clearly asking this in the hope we say yes, preventing them from having to get out of the taxi to help the customer.  

This comment relates to the lack of common sense, some drivers have. They need to learn knowledge of the word ‘disability’ and see that there are different forms of disabilities and their comments can have an on people who suffer from them. 

Personally, no matter how hard I try not to let it, it bothers and somewhat upsets me to be asked if I can get out of my chair and be requested to do so. Taxi drivers feel that they can complete four or five runs in the time it takes to transport a customer who is in wheelchair to their destination. But our fare is as good as any one else’s.  

 This may of been heard on the news by some people, some taxi drivers starting the fare as they arrive at the destination that they picking up the customer with any disability, they then don’t stop the fare until that costumer has completely got out of the taxi at the drop off point. This means we as wheelchair users and charge for the time that the taxi waits, which is no more time than another customer. 

The wheelchair user is then charged for the time it takes the driver to get the ramp out, assist us or ‘load’ as they call it, drive us there and help us back out once more, only then do they stop the fare. 

One person in a wheelchair has recently spoke up about this, clearly saying that fares should only start the fare when the disabled customer is in in the taxi and settled and when everything and everyone is ready to go. 

Those with disabilities and those in wheelchairs don’t take any longer to get into the taxi as anyone else. What taxi drivers don’t realise is that by doing this they may make the disabled costumer feel rushed and uncomfortable and feel a burden. This should never be how someone makes another person feel, particularly disabled people. 

Personally I have been in an electric wheelchair for almost eleven years now and I know how to maneuver around in tight spots and how to position my chair to fit properly inside vehicles and I find it very annoying and frustrating when people rush me or try and take over.

All those with disabilities have enough challenges in life without all this, and these matters need addressing very urgently, but also treated with great care. Taxi drivers need a serious reality check and a lesson on manners and their people skills. This shouldn’t happen and it should not be allowed to continue under any circumstances. 

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