This blog is written by Shaw Trust Accessibility Services’ blind Accessibility Assessor, Alan Sleat. Find out more about Alan here.
Alan’s point of view
Now I think unless you are driving to your holiday or are lucky enough to live next door to the train station, or an airport, (although, I don’t think you would be blessed with that noise). Lots of people will need a taxi to start their journey, especially if their disability prevents them from driving.
Now with the equality act 2010, you would think that there is no need to worry about this, although there are so many stories of people with disabilities being refused the ride. From wheelchair users, disabilities with a speech impairment and assistance dogs.
One of my personal experiences;
I booked a taxi to take me somewhere. They asked me my name, and I tell them that I am blind when booking by phone. I am waiting at the bottom of my drive listening to the cars go past; that’s when a car drives up and stops, then nothing else.
Is this my taxi? I did tell them that I am blind on the phone and I have a white cane, or my guide dog will be with me, this should give them a clue. Maybe if the driver sees me trying to find the door, then help will come my way, or not, that is if it is the taxi?
On the one hand, like websites, there may be no problem at all, and they arrive on time to get you to the next stage of your journey. In all fairness, there are a lot of excellent taxi drivers. On the other hand, what happens if not? Not that you should have to, but when booking, give the taxi firm all the information that they will need to give you the confidence that you need to get the taxi there for you and to the next stage.
I don’t know the policy of drivers helping with suitcases, whether it is from the house to the taxi, or from the taxi to the next stage (rail, coach, or airport).
In my opinion, it is best to get it sorted weeks before and know that the taxi firm will do this for you. If not, I am sure there is a company that will. With this all sorted, hopefully, you can relax on this part of the journey, but don’t forget that this needs to be organised for the return.
In my shoes
Now for all those who don’t need to think of all of this, and thought you could just ring for a taxi and they will get you there, and you can just call for a taxi on your return – put yourself in someone else’s shoes. The next time you are in this situation, did you have to get all the cases out yourself and how far did you need to take them before anyone gave you a hand? How close were you to the destination you needed to be? For example, outside of a train station/bus/coach station?
Now people can ring up where they are going and book assistance where this is available, they will assist people to the appropriate place to allow them to continue their journey. But, this is not always the case, and even if you book this assistance, it does not always work and in my case, either I have been left stranded, or even worse, put on the incorrect coach that went two hours out of my way and ended back where I started!
So, the equality act is there so that everyone can be equal? But this does not seem to be the case everywhere. Although people are now being prosecuted if a taxi refuses to pick up someone with a disability, as well as having an assistance dog. Until things get better, planning ahead and being honest on what support you need is, for me, the best way to go at the moment. So where are we going from here? What holiday destination?
App, Tap, Taxi
Now the taxis are getting into the digital age, with apps. The apps allow people to book them and you can choose where you want to go, what type of taxi (size), then when it has arrived, there is a notification on the phone to tell you that it is here, along with the driver’s name. The app is a great way for disabled people to have, as for me, I will know when the taxi is here, as I can’t see it, also for my colleague who is deaf, as some taxis just beep when outside and he can be confident that the taxi driver knows where he wants to go as he entered the destination on the app when booking it.
However, with technology, it has to be accessible, like websites. The one we use here was very good, until I came across a page with four unlabelled buttons, which I had to choose one to make it work. As a result, I had to ask someone to assist me, which does not make me independent.
Frustrating, as the rest of the app was accessible. However, I suppose we are getting there to assist everyone to get a taxi and feel safe and confident to continue your journey to that well-deserved Break.