Taxi and private hire car licensing: guidance - third edition

Best practice guidance for local licensing authorities and taxi and private hire car operators on the licensing of taxis and private hire cars and their drivers.

Chapter 4 – accessibility requirements


4.1 Local licensing authorities as well as taxi and private hire car drivers are required, by law, to meet certain accessibility related duties in order to ensure disabled people can access taxi services with the same freedom, choice, dignity and ease as others.

4.2 Disabled people make twice as many journeys by taxi and private hire car compared to non-disabled people and rely on these services for essential journeys more than most. With one fifth of Scotland's population identifying themselves as disabled, which represents almost one million people, it is essential that licensing authorities and drivers adhere to their accessibility duties and where possible, go beyond the minimum requirements.

4.3 The aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of the legislation that licensing authorities and drivers need to adhere to, as well as to provide best practice guidance on how taxi providers can and should improve the accessibility of their service.

Local licensing authorities may wish to consider providing operators/drivers with a copy of this guidance document when licences are granted. Or alternatively, they could provide a link to the guidance on the licensing webpage of the council website.

The Accessible Travel Framework: Going Further

4.4 In 2016 Transport Scotland engaged with disabled people, their representatives and transport providers to identify and discuss barriers to accessible travel. The exercise resulted in the creation of the Accessible Travel Framework which runs until 2026.

4.5 The Framework identifies 48 key issues and suggested solutions, which were impacting disabled peoples access to travel. Nine of these issues relate directly to the taxi industry:

  • Seek commitments to improve the effectiveness of equality training to taxi drivers to be able to assist disabled people.
  • Accommodate the different needs for an accessible taxi.
  • Funders such as the Scottish Government could offer grants to help taxi firms improve their fleet to include accessible taxis.
  • Local authorities should collect information on numbers and types of accessible taxis in their area to help them identify where improvements are needed.
  • Require taxis to provide evidence (for example a certificate) of their exemption from taking passengers in a wheelchair or with an assistance dog.
  • Using taxi licensing to ensure 20% of taxis at any one time are accessible to wheelchair users in each local authority area.
  • Make booking of accessible taxis more accessible.
  • Taxis should be contactable by SMS, not just a phone number.
  • Pilot an accessible taxi share scheme- like car clubs- for local areas were no taxi firms have wheelchair accessible vehicles.

4.6 In 2021 Transport Scotland conducted a survey of all licensing authorities to better understand the offering of accessible vehicles at a local level. Responses were received from 31 authorities. However, despite the number of responses only 20 authorities were able to provide numerical data on what wheelchair accessible vehicles were available in their area. The other 11 did not record this information.

4.7 Of the 31 authorities who responded only 9 advised that they provided, or required drivers of taxis and private hire cars to undertake any form of disability awareness training. The training, in the main, usually involved classroom / online and practical training elements and is required to take place within a set period of time (e.g. 6 months) after the license has been awarded.

4.8 Transport Scotland then wrote to Local Authority chief executives recommending that authorities consider revising their licence commitments to make attendance by taxi and private hire car drivers at disability awareness training a compulsory requirement.

4.9 Transport Scotland have committed to repeat this survey in 2024 and this guidance document should be used by authorities to review and inform their policies and procedures.

The Legislation and Law

4.10 In addition to the 1982 Act, the two key pieces of primary legislation which set out the accessibility related requirements of licensing authorities and drivers are:

4.11 Equality Act 2010: The Equality Act 2010 ("the 2010 Act") contains a number of important provisions for the protection of disabled people from discrimination when using taxis and private hire cars. In June 2022, the Act was amended by the Taxis and Private Hire Cars (Disabled Persons) Act 2022 ("the 2022 Act") to make a number of important improvements.

4.12 Taxis and Private Hire Cars (Disabled Persons) Act 2022 ("the 2022 Act"): The 2022 Act aims to further reduce discrimination against disabled people by extending some of the existing 2010 Act duties to apply to more disabled people and more taxi operators. The amendments include:

  • Extending the protections currently afforded to place duties on the driver of a taxi or private hire that has been hired to transport a disabled person who is able and wants to travel in a non-wheelchair accessible vehicle. This will benefit wheelchair users whose wheelchairs can be folded and stowed while travelling in a non-designated taxi or private hire car.
  • Wheelchair users whose wheelchairs cannot be folded and stowed while travelling will further benefit from the new requirement on licensing authorities to publish a list of wheelchair accessible vehicles in their area – making it easier for them to identify services they can use.
  • Extending the protections currently afforded to wheelchair users using a designated wheelchair accessible taxi or private hire car and/or assistance dog users to all disabled passengers regardless of the vehicle they travel in.

Legal Duties for Drivers and Operators

4.13 The duties outlined below are compulsory by law. Non-compliance with the duties outlined below is an offence under section 164A (9) of the 2010 Act and drivers/operators who fail to comply are liable on a summary conviction to a fine of up to £1,000. They may also be subject to other penalties implemented by their local licensing authority. The duties are-

a) to carry the passenger;

b) If the passenger is in or has with them a wheelchair, to carry the wheelchair;

c) If the passenger has with them any mobility aids, to carry the mobility aids;

d) To take such steps as are reasonable to ensure that the passenger is carried in safety and reasonable comfort;

e) To give the passenger such mobility assistance as is reasonably required;

f) Not to make, or propose to make, any additional charge for complying with any of the aforementioned duties.

4.14 This means that drivers can't refuse to take a booking from/pick up a passenger with a mobility aid or wheelchair, providing they have a suitably sized vehicle or the wheelchair can be stowed. Drivers should assist the passenger to load their wheelchair or mobility aid and any luggage into or out of the vehicle. However, drivers who hold an exemption certificate issued under section 166 of the 2010 Act are exempt from the duty to give the passenger "mobility assistance" under section 164A(5)(e) and 165(4)(e).

4.15 "Mobility aids" is defined under section 164A(6) of the 2010 Act and means any item the passenger uses to assist with their mobility but does not include a wheelchair or an assistance dog.

4.16 "Mobility assistance" is defined under section 164A(7) of the 2010 Act as:

  • to enable the passenger to get into or out of the vehicle
  • to load the passengers luggage, wheelchair or mobility aids into or out of the vehicle

4.17 Section 168 places duties on drivers of taxis who have been hired by or for a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog, or by another person who wishes to be accompanied by a disabled person with an assistance dog. Those duties are to carry the disabled person's dog and allow it to remain with that person and not to make any additional charge for doing so. It is an offence to fail to comply with these duties and a person guilty of such an offence is liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to £1,000.

4.18 Section 170 similarly makes it an offence for a private hire vehicle driver to fail or refuse to carry out a booking accepted by the operator if the booking is made by or on behalf of a disabled person or a person who wishes to be accompanied by a disabled person, and the reason for such failure/refusal is that the disabled person is accompanied by an assistance dog.

4.19 In cases where an operator or driver cannot carry a disabled passenger i.e. because they do not have a wheelchair accessible vehicle, they should try to sign post alternative transport.

  • Taxi and private hire car drivers have a duty to assist disabled passengers in identifying and finding the vehicle they have booked, without additional charge, where certain conditions are met. Firstly, that the private hire vehicle or pre-booked taxi has been hired by or for a disabled person or by another person who wishes to be accompanied by a disabled person. Secondly, that the driver of the private hire vehicle or pre-booked taxi has been made aware before the start of the passenger's journey that the passenger requires assistance to identify or find that vehicle.

4.20 This particularly relates to those with sight or cognitive impairments who may need additional assistance in identifying the correct vehicle to get into. Assistance might involve the driver getting out the vehicle to speak to the passenger.

Legal Duties for Local Licensing Authorities

4.21 The duties outlined below are compulsory by law. Licensing authorities must ensure local operators and drivers are aware of their duties and are held accountable to licensing regulations.

  • Licensing authorities are required to maintain and publish a list of wheelchair-accessible vehicles in their area.

4.22 This list became a requirement for all licensing authorities in June 2022 following amendments made to the 2010 Act by the 2022 Act. It is designed to better inform disabled people of the transport options available to them and can be used by licensing authorities to identify gaps in local wheelchair accessible vehicle provision.

The City of Edinburgh Council provides information about their legal requirements as well as a PDF document containing a list of all wheelchair accessible taxis and private hire cars licensed in Edinburgh on their website: Licences and permits applications – The City of Edinburgh Council

  • The 2022 Act amended section 166 of the 2010 Act (Disabled passengers: exemption certificates) to the effect that Licensing authorities must provide drivers with a certificate exempting them from "mobility assistance" duties only if satisfied that it is appropriate to do so on medical grounds or on the ground that the person's physical condition makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for the person to comply with those duties.

4.23 Ensuring drivers have evidence of medical exemption from providing mobility assistance should reduce potential complaints from passengers. Authorities should keep a record of exemptions. See medical fitness chapter for more information.

  • Licensing authorities should take action against drivers who fail to carry out their duties.

Enforcement and Penalties

4.24 Should a disabled passenger believe that they have been discriminated against and an offence committed, they should contact their licensing authority and follow their procedures for making a complaint.

4.25 Licensing Authorities should ensure they have the necessary procedures in place to fully support the submission and handling of complaints. Subject to local licensing conditions, authorities can consider the application of sanctions including the suspension or revocation of taxi or private hire car driver licenses where deemed appropriate.

4.26 The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is the regulatory body responsible for enforcing the Equality Act 2010. The policies and actions of licensing authorities are equally subject to the enforcement of Equality Act duties.

4.27 If a disabled taxi passenger believes they have been treated unfairly or have experienced discrimination contrary to the provisions of the Equality Act, they may seek advice through the Equality Advisory and Support Service. Licensing authorities should proactively ensure operators and drivers, as well as their own policies, are cognisant of Equality Act duties, in order to minimise cases of unintended discrimination or prosecution action.

Best Practice Guidance

4.28 As things stand, there are others ways in which taxi operators can provide a more accessible service, which aren't yet defined in law. It is therefore important that authorities, operators and drivers follow best practice where possible. The remainder of this chapter will provide best practice guidance on how the industry can take further steps to improve accessibility.

Provision of wheelchair accessible vehicles

4.29 A key barrier faced by disabled people when accessing taxi services is the unavailability of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles, particularly in rural locations. In 2021, excluding Edinburgh and Angus councils, there were 18,311 taxis and private hire cars operating in Scotland and only 3,661 (less than 20%) were wheelchair accessible vehicles. See table 1.4 in Chapter 01 of Transport Scotland Scottish Transport Statistics 2021.

4.30 Authorities already have powers to specify standards for vehicles in taxi and private hire car fleets, and we encourage them to ensure that the supply of wheelchair accessible vehicles is sufficient to satisfy demand from disabled passengers in their area. Transport Scotland strongly recommends that no less than 20% of licensed taxis in each local authority area is a wheelchair accessible vehicle.

4.31 Transport Scotland's survey in 2021 found that several authorities were developing plans to increase their number of wheelchair accessible vehicles. This is something that can be monitored when the survey is repeated.

4.32 Some authorities have taken steps to encourage an increase in wheelchair accessible vehicles, including:

Fife Council, in recognition of initial higher costs and to encourage purchase, permit wheelchair accessible vehicles to remain operational for 12 years from the date of first registration, rather than the 10 years applicable to other vehicles.

Aberdeen City Council require all new taxi licence applications to use wheelchair accessible vehicles.

Booking Accessibility

4.33 Operators have existing duties under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled people to access their services, this includes their ability to easily book a taxi/ private hire car.

4.34 Developments in technology now allow taxi and private hire car operators to offer multiple ways for passengers to pre-book a taxi/ private hire car i.e. telephone, app, internet etc. Transport Scotland strongly recommends that operators consider accessibility when developing their booking systems.

4.35 For instance, if only telephone booking is offered, this may be a barrier for those who have a hearing impairment, so SMS/App based booking should be offered as an alternative. Equally, operators should avoid only offering app based booking as this may be a barrier for those who may not have access to/can't operate a smart phone.

4.36 As part of the information operators request when taking a booking, operators should always ask if the passenger(s) will require any assistance. This information should then be passed on to the driver to ensure they are aware of the passenger(s) accessibility needs.


4.37 Often disabled people may be unable to access more inexpensive modes of public transport due to their inaccessible design or geographical location. Equally in rural areas, a taxi or private hire car may be the only option available and unavoidable in circumstances like getting to and from health and social care appointments, as discussed in the 2019 Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) Transport to Health and Social Care Report.

4.38 This means that taxis and private hire cars may be the only option for disabled passengers, automatically adding additional financial strain is disabled passengers.

4.39 Section 1 of the Equality Act states:

An authority… when making decisions of a strategic nature about how to exercise its functions, have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage.

4.40 Taxi Card schemes have been funded by some Local Authorities to subsidise often unavoidable taxi journeys for disabled people. Local Authorities should consider if they can introduce a taxi card scheme or promote existing schemes.

East Lothian offer a Taxi Card scheme which means eligible disabled passengers pay the first £1.50 of each trip, with the council contributing to the cost of a taxi journey to a maximum of £3.00 i.e. if a trip costs £7 the passenger will pay £4 and the council will pay £3.

Disability Awareness Training

4.41 Although not a legal requirement, Transport Scotland strongly recommends that authorities require mandatory disability awareness training for drivers, as part of their licensing criteria.

4.42 Training helps provide drivers with background knowledge on why the accessibility duties are so important and assists them in building confidence and skill in delivering an accessible and inclusive service.

4.43 REAL training was developed by the Department for Transport through extensive consultation with disabled people and organisations that represent them. It is provided free of charge and has modules relating to specific transport modes. However, authorities are also encouraged to explore in-person training events/courses.

East Ayrshire Council impose a condition on all taxi and private hire car driver licences that the licence holder attend a 2 hour, in person disability awareness training session provided by the Local Authority. Failure to undergo training will result in a referral to the Local Government Licensing Panel for consideration of suspension of the licence.

Hate Crime Charter

4.44 The Hate Crime Charter encourages transport providers, members of the public and other services to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to hate crime on Scotland's transport network, including hate crime against disabled people. Transport providers including taxi and private hire car representatives and operators can pledge their support to the Hate Crime Charter, which demonstrates that they support the belief that everyone has the right to travel safely and any aggressive, bullying or harassing behavior will not be tolerated on their services.

4.45 To learn more about the Charter and how to pledge support, please visit the Accessible Travel Hub website.

Best Practice Checklist

4.46 In the Transport Scotland survey completed in 2021, around half of all licensing authorities stated they had plans to review their policies around local taxi accessibility and the provision of wheelchair accessible vehicles. To assist with this work, the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland produced a list of simple recommendations and considerations which authorities should use when reviewing their policies:

Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland Recommendations

  • Understand how taxi & private hire car services can support people in new ways
  • Drivers who are disability-aware can provide unique support to customers.
  • Understand why your customers are travelling - can you provide additional services that support this journey? (for example collecting prescriptions or shopping)
  • Enable people to book easily without repeating their needs
  • If you're not sure how to help, just ask. Many service providers learn just as much from their own passengers as from any formal training - and often people are happy to offer advice so you can help them and others too.
  • Make it known to your passengers that you're open to their advice and guidance

Understand what 'safety' means to your passengers

  • Explore different ways to help customers to feel safe (for example, different ways of cashless payments, requesting particular drivers)
  • If you can offer the option of a female driver, make this widely known.
  • Technology that allows people to share their location and journey can make people feel safe
  • Consider different ways for people to pay

Be Inclusive

  • Provide the option of a wheelchair accessible vehicle
  • Provide information in as many formats and languages as possible - include voiced narration, BSL interpretation and captions in videos
  • Help customers to book a journey in ways that are accessible to them (for example, can people use text? some people find it difficult to speak on the phone)
  • Provide opportunities for staff to access disability training
  • Advertise your disability awareness

Help people to follow the rules

  • Reassure everyone by giving clear guidance about who is responsible in certain situations
  • Ensure that staff feel empowered, safe and confident - this will help them to help others follow the rules



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