Taxis can be a fantastic way of getting around for a person with a disability. As a person who is blind, I use taxis for many reasons. I particularly use them when I need to go to unfamiliar locations. I have used taxis for work and medical appointments. I have also used them to attend leisure activities.
My experiences with taxi drivers have been varied. Sometimes drivers have been difficult and not accommodating. This was very frustrating. I have also had drivers say inappropriate things. But most of my experiences in the back of a cab have been great.
I was able to get many jobs as a social worker that were supposed to require a driver's licence. My employers allowed me to use taxis instead. The Multi Purpose Taxi Program which provides half price taxi fares for Victorians with a severe and permanent disability was very useful. I was able to safely and to independently visit my clients in their homes.
The first time I ever used taxis was as a teenager. I had a friend who lived about 15 minutes from my house. My parents were sometimes too busy with work to drive me around. I would hop into a taxi and go to my friend's house.
Later in life I had another friend who used a wheelchair. We used to love partying together. We would catch taxis to nightclubs and music venues. But we found it hard to get accessible taxis. We used to have to wait a long time for a taxi to show up. My friend would also often be late for work appointments.
I have found that taxi drivers are usually very kind and helpful. Many drivers accommodate the needs of people with a disability. But there have been times that drivers have acted inappropriately. One driver actually said to me
you're blind but you are very smart.
Years ago a few drivers were sexually suggestive towards to me. I told them that their behaviour was unacceptable and to stop. Once when I was in a cab going to the train station in regional Victoria a driver propositioned me. We had just arrived at the station and I opened the door and jumped out. I listened very carefully to the approaching train and got my bearings. Using my cane I located the ramp. I literally ran to the platform and caught a train. Although the experience was scary, I felt empowered as I had got to safety by myself. And fortunately, bad experiences are very rare.
The Victorian Government is currently conducting an inquiry into the taxi industry. The inquiry will include an examination of the service provided to people with a disability. More information can be found on the Taxi Industry Inquiry website (opens new window).
I think it is crucial that the taxi industry provides a good standard of service to people with a disability. I will continue to fight for the rights of people with disability to travel safely and independently.