An international specialist on the mobility needs of people with disabilities has acknowledged the great progress in England’s transport sector in recent years but says more should be done.
Ann Frye OBE, who works as an expert advisor on international and UK projects on accessibility, was commenting on media reports which indicated more than four fifths of all local authorities in England have fewer than one wheelchair accessible taxi per 1,000 people.
The figures were published following research by the international airport transfers businessTaxi2Airport.com, which analysed data released by the government to investigate which English cities have the highest and lowest number of wheelchair accessible taxis per 1,000 residents.
The Independent reported that the research found that 34 per cent of local authorities still don’t require all or part of taxi fleets to be wheelchair accessible.
Liverpool was found to be the most accessible city, with 1,426 accessible taxis – the equivalent of 2.9 per 1,000 people.
Although London had by far the highest number of accessible taxis – more than 20,000 – it came in third place, working out as 2.3 per 1,000 inhabitants.
At the other end of the spectrum, Wakefield was deemed the least accessible English city, with just 30 taxis that are accessible – 0.1 per 1,000 citizens.
In total, only 12 cities were found to have more than one wheelchair accessible taxi per 1,000 people.
There are currently around 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK – the equivalent of one in 56 people.
The research also showed that the number of authorities requiring disability awareness training for taxi drivers has increased from 41 to 44 per cent, while the number of local authorities which require all or part of a taxi fleet to be wheelchair accessible has risen from 65 to 66 per cent.
Ann told The Independent: “There has been enormous progress in the UK in the last 30 years in introducing technical standards for accessibility, particularly in bus and rail.
“Already all buses in service must meet accessibility requirements and by the end of this year the same will apply to trains. Major cities also have large numbers of accessible taxis in service.
“However, there are still many barriers to overcome including: lack of information about what is available and possible; lack of training so that front line staff do not always understand the needs of a disabled person; a general lack of understanding still about the needs of people with hidden disabilities including mental health conditions, autism and dementia who can be very challenged by the transport environment.”
10 cities with highest number of accessible taxis
Liverpool (2.9 per 1,000 people)
Newcastle upon Tyne (1.5)
10 cities with lowest number accessible taxis
County Durham (0.1)
Bath (and North East Somerset) (0.1)