Many depend on taxi services to socialise, attend doctor appointments, or job interviews. It’s important for a balanced social life to be able to move from one location to another. That’s a basic activity for most UK citizens that a lot of disabled people increasingly consider to be a luxury in Scotland.
2023 study reflects on the lack of accessible transport in rural parts of Scotland
Leonard Cheshire Disability conducted a study, stressing the challenges that people face in accessing taxis and Private Hire Vehicles.
The results can be broken down into two conclusions: first, that scarce availability of accessible vehicles leads to the deprivation of social life. Inability to go out at night or negative past experiences are both responsible for people being unable to use taxi services.
Next, disabled travellers report discrimination and stigma from drivers and operators. This important human factor can discourage further travelling, which is a natural outcome that, sadly, is true for many.
Currently, 8 million disabled individuals struggle to access taxis and Private Hire Vehicles when they need it. Others state that they can never access these services at all.
Unfair treatment and discrimination from the staff towards the disabled passengers
Even more alarming is that nearly half of the participants reported inequality and bad attitude from staff. Many had to deal with a lack of professionalism in workers who mishandled their wheelchair. Others were impatient with them because of their disability.
Lack of accessibility has profound implications in the daily lives of disabled individuals, especially those who live in rural areas. This is a growing problem that won’t cease unless mandatory disability awareness training is required for taxi and Private Hire Vehicles staff.
Opening the taxi driver training schools as a solution
While it’s not a common practice yet, such training courses became available in certain locations in Scotland. One of them is Perth and Kinross where the council is funding the taxi driver school.
The purpose of their lessons is to teach the new drivers to work with wheelchairs as well as being mindful of any disability they come across.
The role of the trainers and their engagement with the new drivers
On the one hand, the trainers make sure that the driving staff understands all technical aspects of loading, strapping, and unloading wheelchairs. At the same time, Nettie Sutherland, one of the teachers and a wheelchair user herself, calls for a more meaningful study course.
Under current circumstances, simply teaching drivers to interact with the disabled people’s equipment is not enough. They should also be competent in interacting with the passengers and treat them equally.
Whether it’s about showing patience during communication, or informing disabled people about the route change, the taxi driver school in Perth wants to encourage the staff to give all passengers the comfortable service they deserve.
Despite some negative tendencies demonstrated by the survey, we’re going to use them as an important message about areas to work on. And of course, we’re going to end it on a positive note in the next post or further progress in ensuring accessibility for all.