With only one in seven vehicles in England and Wales properly equipped, the Disabled People’s Charity Scope said daily inequalities were rife, even for returning Paralympic heroes.
Figures from the Department of Transport show that 926 vehicles were cleared for use in Peterborough at the end of March – but only 133 (14%) could be used by people in wheelchairs.
Of the 122 traditional taxis that can be hailed from the street, all were wheelchair accessible.
But only 11 (1%) of the area’s 804 private rental vehicles, which must be pre-booked, offered the same service.
Across England, only 2% of private rental vehicles, such as those available through Uber, can accommodate a wheelchair.
Although the proportion of taxis or cabs that can do the same is much higher, it has fallen from 57% to 54% over the past year.
Scope said four-fifths of people with disabilities feel anxious on public transport – the coronavirus pandemic only exacerbating this – leaving many people dependent on taxis and VTCs.
Tom Marsland, head of consumer policy at the charity, said: âWhen these are not accessible, people with disabilities are deprived of their independence.
âConsistent regulation and enforcement across all transport authorities in England and Wales would help hold taxi drivers and organizations accountable for their accessibility and improve the confidence of people with disabilities in the system. “
Mr Marsland said the Paralympic Games – which ended on September 5 – sent a powerful message to the world, but warned that all people with disabilities still face daily inequalities in public transport.
He added: âWe must not miss the opportunity to turn Paralympic cheers into change and to create an equal and just society. “
Figures from the DfT also show that the majority of local authorities in England and Wales do not require disability awareness training for taxi or private hire drivers. But in Peterborough, taxi drivers and private drivers must take this training.
The National Private Hire and Taxi Association said wheelchair accessible vehicles are expensive to buy and use, and their higher emissions are worse for the environment.
Steven Toy, NPHTA Board Member, said: âWith the increase in the number of trips made by peer-to-peer applications, there are fewer horse-drawn carriage rides.
“That in itself deters people from investing in a vehicle when they see their business going down overall.”
He added that for every WAV request there will likely be 10 or more for a low vehicle – favored by older people who have difficulty getting into taller vehicles – so any disabilities should be considered.
A spokesperson for the DfT said: âOur national disability strategy will push forward new laws to ensure people with disabilities receive appropriate assistance in taxis and private rental vehicles.
âAll councils should use existing powers to provide sufficient wheelchair accessible vehicles and ensure that all drivers are trained to handle each passenger with a disability. “