Disability, My Life, Travel

Birmingham City Council Taxis – The Hearing

It was time for me to make a stand and I was impressed on how fast Birmingham City Council responded and how seriously they took my complaint.

After the incident with the driver, outside Birmingham New Street station, I felt terrible and sad, and just wanted to let it go and move on.

However, I kept dwelling on the incident and what had happened, so I filed a complaint highlighting the incident and how I felt towards the driver’s attitude and how I felt due to his actions.

I was determined to make my point and I want to make a stand, for myself and other disabled people, in a wheelchair or not who may have received a similar form of treatment from a taxi driver in Birmingham or elsewhere.

Along with including the details of the incident, I was sure to be very descriptive and accurate when I included the quotes that the taxi driver in question said to me, or in fact didn’t say to me directly, which pushed me forward into writing the statement and filing the complaint.

I was impressed by the immediate seed that Birmingham City Council responded to my complaint and how serious they took it.

After corresponding for a long time with a member of the licensing team on Birmingham City Council they invited me to a hearing which allowed me to give evidence.

On the morning of the hearing, my mom and I parked the car and walked to the council house.

We met with Teresa Wilding, the licencing support officer who I had been corresponding with via email and we sat down, while waiting to be welcomed in by the committee, I saw the driver who we had come to give evidence against.

The driver was looking down and looked very sorry for himself. I knew he had seen me and he was defiantly embarrassed.

Seeing how embarrassed he was, I felt awkward about giving evidence against him, but I was here and I had to do this, not only because it was the right thing to do, after what happened, but also, I had to do it for me, for my confidence and something I did for disabled people everywhere.

A representative from the licencing committee welcomed my mom and I in and we were followed in by Teresa Wilding and the taxi driver and we sat opposite the rest of the Birmingham City Council licencing committee.

As I sat facing the licencing committee, it felt daunting and even more real and that my next words would actually have circumstances on the taxi driver and may cause Birmingham City Council to revise their methods to prevents incidents like this happening again.

The committee member who welcomed us in to the room was first to speak, introduced herself and her role before introducing her fellow committee members and the roles that they have.

They then invited the taxi driver in question to speak first about what happened from his point of view on the night of the incident. He began by saying how sorry he was and how much remorse he felt towards what happened.

Though I appreciated the remorse he felt and the acknowledgements he had made as regards to the incident, but what was annoying was the fact that he had to be reminded to speak to me directly when he was officially making his apology to me.

This was very insulting and frustrating, especially as this was one of the aspects featured in the complaint I filed, he hadn’t spoken to me directly that night either.

Although this was frustrating, I was glad that the committee members saw one of the elements of my complaint first-hand.

When it was my turn to speak, I said that I understood the apprehension drivers have when they see my wheelchair, but there is no need for the attitude I received.

After the incident, I made sure to make a note of some of the things he said to me, which I repeated in front of the committee members.

On hearing this, the taxi driver started to panic and speak about the health and safety involved in not taking my wheelchair in one of his taxis.

In my opinion the driver speaking about health and safety caused the remorse he showed at the beginning of the tribunal to seem less meaningful, he was digging himself a bigger of bigger hole that he couldn’t get out of, very easily.

Though I was very angry at him and hurt towards his actions and attitude and what he did, I was silently shaking my head, hoping he would stop before he made things worse for himself.

During the tribunal, when it was my turn to speak, I made sure to talk for myself, I was very clear on what I was saying and putting my arguments across, but not seeming overpowering or rude to the committee members.

Though this tribunal was about one taxi driver and one particular incident, I made sure to tell the committee members that this wasn’t the first time that I had been met with this type of attitude when I have tried to use other taxis and their reluctance to take me. But this time, enough is enough.

Once both me and the taxi driver had finished giving evidence, I was thanked on behalf of the committee for coming to speak to them and asked to leave, while the committee members all spoke about everything what was said during the hearing, along with all of the evidence given to them.

A member of the licencing committee would then contact me and tell me what they decided on the next course of action and what would happen to the driver’s licence.

A couple of weeks later, I received an email from a licensing support officer, Teresa Wilding, who told me that the driver’s licence had been revoked for two months.

The tribunal being in October, meant that the driver would be suspended and be prevented from working during one of the busiest time of year.

I truly hope that when the driver does return to work, he is more aware of his attitude and behaviour and if a similar incident was to arise again, then he would be more respectful and more aware of his actions.

I also hope that he speaks to other drivers, explaining what happened to him following one incident and encourage them not to behave in the same way if a disabled person approaches them.

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