COUNCILS in East Lancashire are going above and beyond to ensure new legislation to protect the rights of wheelchair users is being enforced.
Amendments to the Equality Act in April mean taxi drivers will face a fine of up to £1,000 fine if they refuse to transport wheelchair users or attempt to charge them extra.
The law only applies to drivers registered on council lists of wheelchair accessible taxis, known as Section 167 lists, and according to research by activist Doug Paulley just 11 per cent of councils have created one.
He said: “It is disappointing that the Government’s intent in bringing in this legislation is being undermined by the failure of many councils to undertake the required office work, meaning that taxi drivers can continue to discriminate against wheelchair users with impunity.
“While conducting this research, it became clear that many councils simply didn’t think to create them until prompted.”
However councils in East Lancashire have been going the extra mile to ensure their drivers are embracing the changes.
Blackburn with Darwen boast a 70 strong Hackney Carriage fleet, all of which are wheel chair accessible.
A spokesperson for Blackburn with Darwen council said: “This has been the case for many years.
“Disability awareness training is part of the training package that all applicants for hackney and private hire licences have to attend.”
Burnley council manage 44 Hackney carriages, all of which are wheelchair user friendly and in Hyndburn nine out of their 62 Hackney Carriages are wheelchair accessible.
A stark contrast to the 39 per cent of licensing authorities where fewer than one in 10 taxis are registered as wheelchair accessible
Nic Bungay, director of campaigns, care and information at Muscular Dystrophy UK, which has lobbied for years for the law change, said: “Taxis are not a luxury for disabled people.
“They often represent the only way to get from A to B when public transport isn’t accessible.
“Doug’s research comprehensively demonstrates how many councils are failing to ensure that disabled passengers are penalised.
“We need them all to implement lists now as per the Government’s recommendations, and for the Department for Transport to promote the lists as a matter of urgency.”