Taxis for wheelchair users!

In a time where research is making so many developments, we aren't getting the basics of patient experience right.

Taxi, taxi, taxi, .....

Recently, I was shocked at how difficult it was to organise taxi transport for wheelchair-using members of a meeting. The university where we're based has taxi company suppliers that, as a member of staff, I must use. But on this occasion (in the midst of office Christmas party season) all of their wheelchair-accessible cars were booked out. I don’t know how many cars they have, but I doubt very many.

It was incredibly difficult to find taxi companies with cars that could accommodate someone travelling in a wheelchair. I also wanted to pre-book (and get a trustworthy form of confirmation - i.e. not a verbal agreement saying they’d turn up) and pre-pay for the journey. 

This is the standard level of service that is provided by companies for able-bodied passengers in a major city, so why not people in wheelchairs? 

I was then surprised to find that there wasn't one centralised source of information that had up-to-date links to wheelchair accessible vehicles - does one exist?  I know there are very helpful guides for accessible venues, like Euan’s Guide, which is a fantastic resource providing disabled access reviews across the UK. So I thought there would be something similar for transport services.

London Black Cabs can take wheelchairs, but to pre-book and pre-pay for these you need an account which is contracted through the council and TfL, so I couldn’t get one. I believe this is the TaxiCard scheme which allows people with serious mobility difficulties to travel in cabs at a reduced rate. Alarmingly, the London Evening Standard reports that TfL will be cutting its contribution to this scheme. I can imagine this will have a hugely detrimental impact on the people that depend on this to travel.

I finally was able to book a black cab through another company, after setting up a business account. But that's not the end of the story. On the day, many of the taxis cancelled or just didn't show up. This was incredibly frustrating, and appeared unprofessional on our part, to the people we had invited in. 

Stranded with very few options, I ended up using Uber’s new Access setting which sent a car within 15 minutes. After being let down so badly, this service really saved the day.

Considering that all research should involve people who are affected by that research in some stage of the process (termed as Patient Public Involvement from the university perspective), cuts to schemes like TaxiCard will create yet another barrier to making research inclusive.

I’d be interested to hear your experiences of moving around major cities in taxis, or in your local area.