WEB_taxiALL TAXI and private hire vehicle drivers face a fine of up to £1,000 if they refuse to accept wheelchair-users, try to charge them extra, or fail to provide them with appropriate assistance.

Peer pressure has finally forced the Government to bring into force regulations that ban taxi drivers from discriminating against wheelchair-users, more than 20 years after they were first included in legislation.

Successive Labour, coalition and Conservative governments have refused to bring the measures into force, since they were included in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and then incorporated into the Equality Act 2010.

But the Equality Act 2010 and disability committee, which included several disabled peers among its members, and reported last March on the impact of equality laws on disabled people, called in its report for the measures to be implemented.

Welcoming the move, which comes into effect on April 6, Leonard Cheshire Disability campaigns director Peter Jenkins said: “Wheelchair users are all too familiar with being discriminated against. This has been a long time in coming but we celebrate its arrival. This is a victory for all disabled people.

“We now need all staff working in public transport, including taxi drivers, to undergo robust, regular disability equality training, led by disabled people, as part of their induction and on-going development.

“Breaking down misconceptions is just as important as legislation for disabled people to receive the same freedoms as everyone else.”

The Government will also be consulting on a draft accessibility action plan later this year, which will seek to address the barriers faced by disabled people in accessing all types of public transport.

Transport minister Anthony Jones said in a statement: “We want to build a country that works for everyone, and part of that is ensuring disabled people have the same access to services and opportunities as anyone else – including when it comes to travel.

“People who use wheelchairs are often heavily reliant on taxis and private hire vehicles and this change to the law will mean fair and equal treatment for all.”

The new rules will apply in England, Wales and Scotland and will affect vehicles that are designated as wheelchair-accessible, and will apply to both taxis and private hire vehicles.

As well as being fined, drivers could also face having their taxi or private hire vehicle licences suspended or revoked.