Chapter 4 - ACCESSIBILITY AND THE EQUALITY ACT 2010
4.1. Responsibility for accessibility legislation for taxis and private hire cars is primarily a matter reserved to the UK Government. The provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in relation to taxi accessibility have been consolidated and updated and are now to be found in sections 160-173 of the Equality Act 2010. Some of these powers are yet to be commenced (brought into effect) as explained below. Licensing authorities will wish to be aware that sections 161, 163 and 164 do not apply to Scotland.
4.2. The (UK) Department for Transport has recently advised that UK Ministers do not intend to commence section 160 (and therefore sections 162, 163 and 164). These sections essentially require all taxis to meet certain accessibility standards.
4.3. Licensing authorities wishing to make progress on improving the level of provision of accessible vehicles should consider the scope for developing accessibility policies using their powers under the 1982 Act, section 10(2). The Scottish Government welcomes the introduction of such policies and note that a number of authorities, using discretionary powers under the 1982 Act, have adopted a policy aimed at increasing the availability of accessible vehicles whereby only accessible taxis will be accepted for licensing purposes. In creating such policies it is particularly important to be aware of customer requirements within your area (i.e. prevalence of wheelchair users, visual impairment, other mobility requirements etc) and ensure your policy is appropriately tailored.
4.4. Different accessibility considerations apply between taxis and private hire cars. Taxis can be hired on the spot - in the street or at a rank - by the customer dealing directly with a driver; whereas private hire cars can only be pre-booked. It is important that a disabled person should be able to hire a taxi with the minimum delay or inconvenience, and having accessible taxis available helps makes that possible.
4.5. As regards section 165, the UK Government are still considering their commencement strategy. This section when commenced will impose a duty on taxi and private hire car drivers with wheelchair accessible vehicles to provide assistance to disabled passengers. The relevant duties are:
- to carry the passenger while in the wheelchair;
- not to make any additional charge for doing so;
- if the passenger chooses to sit in a passenger seat to carry the wheelchair;
- to take such steps as are necessary to ensure that the passenger is carried in safety and comfort; and
- to give the passenger such mobility assistance as is reasonably required.
4.6. The drivers of vehicles used to provide a local service ("taxibus") already have a duty to provide assistance to people in wheelchairs when so used. The provisions referred to above when implemented will extend the duties to drivers of taxis and private hire cars when in conventional use.
4.7. Section 166 (providing that drivers of designated taxis may apply for exemption from the section 165 duties) has already been commenced. An authority must issue a person with a certificate exempting the person from the duties imposed by section 165 if satisfied that it is appropriate to do so on medical grounds, or where a person's physical condition makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for the person to comply with these duties.
4.8. Section 167 when commenced will provide that licensing authorities may maintain lists of accessible vehicles for the purposes of section 165. Earlier (UK) Department for Transport advice on implementation of accessibility provisions in the 2010 Act can be accessed via the following link:
4.9. The Scottish Government will continue to liaise with (UK) Department for Transport colleagues on the matter of commencement of provisions and any resulting guidance for authorities and operators. We will keep Scottish stakeholders informed of developments.
Duty to carry guide, hearing and prescribed assistance dogs
4.10. Since 3 March 2003 licensed taxi drivers in Scotland have been under a duty (introduced as a condition of licence) to carry guide, hearing and other prescribed assistance dogs in their taxis, without additional charge (The Taxi Drivers' Licences (Carrying of Guide Dogs and Hearing Dogs) (Scotland) Regulations 2003). Drivers who have a medical condition that is aggravated by exposure to dogs may apply to their licensing authority for exemption from the duty on medical grounds. Any other driver who fails to comply with the duty is guilty of a criminal offence and liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
4.11. Similar duties were introduced for private hire car drivers with effect from 31 March 2004 in The Private Hire Car Drivers' Licences (Carrying of Guide Dogs and Hearing Dogs) (Scotland) Regulations 2004.
4.12. Since these duties are introduced as a condition of licence the question of enforcement and the investigation of any complaints received is primarily a matter for local licensing authorities. It is therefore for authorities to decide whether breaches in regard to these duties should be pursued through the courts or alternatively by use of their powers under Schedule 1, paragraph 11 of the 1982 Act.
Email: Joanna Mackenzie