AFTER a speaker who was meant to introduce Ed Miliband ended up late because of taxi woes – Edinburgh council’s leader has met with him to discuss his concerns about taxi accessibility in the city.
Council Leader, Andrew Burns and Convener of the Regulatory Committee, Cllr Gavin Barrie met with charity campaigner, Gordon Aikman on Monday to discuss his concerns about the accessibility of taxis in Edinburgh.
Mr Aikman, who has motor neurone disease, struggled to find a taxi that was able accommodate his wheelchair when he was due to introduce Ed Miliband at the Labour Party Conference in the capital but missed the opportunity after two taxis he called were unable to pick him up – one because the electric ramp was not working and the other because he ‘took too long to come down’.
Cllr Burns said: “What happed to Gordon is of course completely unacceptable and the purpose of today’s meeting was to discuss what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We have identified steps that we can take as the licensing authority for taxis in the city, to ensure that these vehicles are accessible to wheelchair users.
“For example, we will be cracking down on drivers who fail to stop for disabled customers and increasing the number of spot checks to check that the taxis’ ramps are operational. We will also be calling for taxi companies to review their allocated waiting time for collections with a view to extending this for people with mobility issues.
“We want to make sure that wheelchair users in Edinburgh have a positive experience when using taxis and I would like to thank Gordon for highlighting this very important issue.”
Other actions agreed include a review of the current driver training arrangements to improve accessibility training and looking at introducing refresher courses. Taxi drivers who are exempt from manually loading wheelchairs for health reasons may also be asked to display a prominent sign on their vehicle indicating that they are not accessible.
The agreed measures will now be taken forward by the Council, led by Councillor Gavin Barrie as Convener of the Regulatory Committee.
Welcoming the outcome of yesterday’s meeting, Gordon Aikman said: “This crackdown is very welcome. Wheelchair or not, each and every one of us should be able to get into a cab and get from A to B without any hassle.
“I’ve only been in a wheelchair for a couple of weeks, but have been shocked by the treatment disabled folk have to put up with.
“I’m confident this Access Action Plan will help make taxis in our capital more accessible. I hope other councils follow Edinburgh’s lead. This is not about special treatment – it is about equal access. No disabled person should have to put up with second rate service.”