THE head of the Cork Taxi Council has slammed drivers for refusing to pick up passengers with disabilities.
Cork Taxi Council spokesperson Bobby Lynch claims that some drivers were boasting that they had never driven a wheelchair user despite benefitting from the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Grant Scheme which can amount to €7,500.
Mr Lynch said he had witnessed a number of drivers pretending to be fully booked to avoid the manual work of operating ramps and stabilising wheelchairs.
“There are people who have told me that they won’t carry a wheelchair,” he said.
“It’s disgusting, yet the government are still giving out grants.
“There’s nothing out there to catch these guys. This needs to be put in the hands of the people with the real power.
“When Gardaí had control of the taxi industry they were able to sort issues out.
“If you had so much as a dirty car you were asked to report to Anglesea Street. Everyone that knew these Gardaí respected them.”
He described the behaviour as unacceptable, adding: “I’ve spotted taxi drivers just pull out of the rank when they see a wheelchair user coming.
“They will drive away with a smile on their face and absolutely no guilt.”
Bobby has approached taxi drivers in the past to raise the issue with them.
“I approached one guy and told him that this could be his mother, father, sister or even himself one day. He told me to mind my own business.
“However, when something like this is going on it’s everybody’s business.
“If a taxi driver didn’t feel comfortable picking up people with disabilities then they shouldn’t have applied for the grant.”
Bobby referred to one frustrating incident.
“I once came across a person who couldn’t get a taxi to Live at the Marquee.
“I decided to make the call myself to see if I’d have any luck but there was nothing available.
“I rang a few minutes later saying that I was ordering a taxi for a wheelchair user travelling to Kerry.
“As soon as they thought it was a long journey they were able to make it down almost straight away. When the driver pulled up I told him that he needed to be taken the Marquee.”
He said that wheelchair users aren’t the only people facing adversity.
“I have known taxi drivers who don’t want to carry guide dogs for fear of the hairs they might leave on the seat.
“The only reason a taxi driver should have for not taking a guide dog is if they have an allergy.
“Even in this case, a doctor’s letter needs to be lodged with the National Transport Authority.”
He said the current situation is placing unnecessary stress on base operators.
“A lot of the base operators are getting the blame when the bottom line is that the taxi driver just doesn’t want any work involving wheelchairs.”
He emphasised that there are also many drivers going above and beyond the call of duty to accommodate wheelchair users.
“The fact that some taxi drivers won’t take passengers with disabilities is something that is making drivers with saloon cars very angry.
“Some wheelchair users will be able to manage in a saloon car.
“In these cases, most drivers can put the chair in the boot and will do whatever they can to accommodate that passenger.”