From the “Diary of a public transport virgin”
All of my blogs so far have been about my far-flung travels. However, like most people most of my travelling needs are local. I live in Eastleigh, work in Southampton, and usually shop in Southampton as well. This blog is the first of several which detail my experiences of local public transport.
I am well versed with travelling by train or taxi. As I have said before, taxis in London are great – because all of them are accessible. However, my experiences with using taxis in Southampton are mixed to say the least.
I travel to work via taxi, on a pre-arranged private hire basis, and this works well. There are a number of wheelchair accessible taxis in Southampton; but sadly nowhere near enough. You see unless there is a critical mass of accessible taxis then it is impossible to be spontaneous or to have any confidence that you will be able to find an accessible taxi when you need one. For instance I might be able to get a taxi into town, but what if I could not get an accessible taxi home?
In Southampton this situation is the reality and whilst the City Council could (and should) ensure that all licensed taxis are wheelchair accessible; they don’t. Other towns do; but Southampton doesn’t. You see, unless all taxis are accessible, Disabled People won’t risk them through fear of being let down or stranded. It is a real shame as I believe that if they were all accessible, then Disabled People would be far more likely to use them and therefore generate more income to the taxi trade – a win-win as they say.
This daytime situation in Southampton is difficult enough; but it gets much more difficult at night, Bank Holidays and weekends. Many’s the time that I have rung half a dozen of the main taxi companies only to be told that none of the accessible taxis are on the road at that time. No one else has to book in advance, so why should I?
Even trying to book in advance is very difficult as some companies won’t take bookings for accessible taxis in advance because they say they don’t know if any will be available (presumably the drivers of these accessible taxis decide when they want to work, and the company cannot predict this in advance).
There are a number of specialist private hire taxi companies who run accessible taxis – so you can pre-book these, but not in any way spontaneously.
The worst problem in Southampton though is trying to get an accessible taxi during ‘school run’ times – all the accessible taxis are on ‘contract’ to transport students to school/college and it is virtually impossible to get a taxi during these times.
So, in Southampton, taxis are hit-and-miss to say the least. We have a stalemate situation – not enough accessible taxis for Disabled People to be confident enough to use spontaneously, and therefore to prove there is a demand; and until the powers-that-be can prove the demand there is not enough evidence to prove ‘the business case’.
But hang on, shouldn’t this be about rights? Until Southampton City Council decides that Disabled People should have the same rights to use taxis as everyone else; things will not improve, Disabled People will not travel via taxi and the taxi trade will not get our business – everyone is a looser.
It is a real shame as it could be completely different. Southampton City Council should look at those cities who have made the move to fully accessible taxi fleets. The city of Southampton is a generally very accessible city – but if you cannot get to it….. what is the point!
So, sadly I am almost never inclined to try using taxis in Southampton.
My equality score: 1 point.
Between the 14th and the 17th September, Robert Droy and Michael Grimmett from SCIL joined 440 people from 21 European countries in Strasbourg for the Freedom Drive 2009 to campaign for the rights of Disabled People.
The Freedom Drive concentrates on Independent Living subjects such as deinstitutionalisation, the right to personal assistance and the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.
The Freedom Drivers came up with 8 key demands that they felt the European Parliament should be working on and these demands were handed over to EU Parliament President Jerzy Buzek and to Richard Howitt MEP following a march through the streets of Strasbourg to the Parliament building.
Jerzy Buzek and Richard Howitt said they were committed to fight for the rights of Disabled People and encouraged Freedom Drivers to keep lobbying their national MEPs to promote Independent Living in their countries.
Michael Grimmett from SCIL commented ‘ I found the 2009 Freedom Drive to be an inspiring experience. To be around other Disabled People, who are fighting for a common goal was uplifting and gave me further impetus to carry on the campaign for independent living and equal rights. ‘.
Following a meeting with some of the UK MEPs, Robert Droy pledged that SCIL would invite the MEPs in the South East area to a seminar in early 2010 to continue the dialogue further. More details to follow…..