The Act, originally introduced by Conservative MP Jeremy Wright as a Private Members Bill, will require all local authorities to maintain and publish a list of all the wheelchair-accessible taxis and private hire vehicles in their area.
It will also impose new duties on drivers of vehicles that are not wheelchair-accessible to carry a disabled person and their mobility aid and provide “reasonable assistance”, without charging extra, for example if a wheelchair-user wants to transfer to the passenger seat and store their wheelchair in the boot of the vehicle.
The Act extends to England and Wales and Scotland, and will come into force 2 months from the time it is passed. The key changes include:
- Drivers are obliged to carry and provide fair service to all passengers, regardless of impairment, at no extra cost. The new Bill extends existing laws to cover all disabled passengers, and imposes a fine of up to £1,000 for drivers who fail in their obligation to provide a fair, accessible service.
- Drivers must provide as much mobility assistance as is reasonably required, including carrying mobility aids. This may involve helping a passenger transfer to the vehicle, folding wheelchairs, adjusting seats, or any other reasonable modification to ensure the trip is safe and comfortable.
- A new duty requiring that drivers assist disabled passengers to identify and find the vehicle they have booked, without making any additional charge for doing so. This would be on the condition that the driver is made aware before the start of the journey that the passenger requires assistance to identify or find the vehicle. This would be particularly helpful for visually impaired passengers and those with learning disabilities or cognitive impairments.
- Local authorities must keep a register of licensed wheelchair-accessible Taxi’s and PHV’s, and must make these accessible to the public.