In Australia, the number of Wheelchair Accessible Taxi’s has increased over the past 30 years. Increases in consumer demand combined with government legislation and subsidies have meant that these taxis are more accessible for people with disabilities. The number of companies offering wheelchair accessible taxis has increased which have improved accessibility and your ability to get to where you need to be.
What is a Wheelchair Accessible Taxi (WAT)?
A WAT is a specially modified vehicle for people who use wheelchairs and can accommodate one to three wheelchairs. WATS is a major part of the NSW public transport system, which requires the WAT drivers to undertake a special training after issuing of a driver authority. Australian residents with a permanent disability can be eligible for the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme (TTSS). The scheme subsidizes the travel costs for people with disabilities and covers 50% of the total cost with a maximum subsidy of $60 per journey. This is claimed through travel dockets that are specific to each individual.
Requirements for the Wheelchair Accessible Taxi
The Wheelchair Accessible Taxi should meet important requirements for passengers, which include:
Mobility Aid Specifications
The Commonwealth Government's Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (DSAPT) has mandated Disability Standards that provide some basic assumptions regarding mobility aids used on public transport. However, if any passenger does not meet the assumptions, then he or she may not access a WAT. The specifications include:
- The weight of both the mobility aid and the passenger should be less than 300kg.
- The occupied length of both the mobility aid and the passenger should not exceed 1300mm, while the width should not exceed 800mm.
- The passenger’s head height should not exceed 1500mm when sitting on a mobility aid.
Wheelchair restraint system
WATs must have four points to tie down the wheelchairs securely. Wheelchairs must be securely tied down at four (4) points. The number of positions should match the number of complete restraints’ sets. The restraints should have no wears, tears, and knots. Also, all the fitted restraints should comply with the Australian Disability Standards. Hoists mounted to the Wheelchair Accessible Taxis should:
- Be firmly fitted to the motor vehicle
- Have a skid resistant loading level surface, and
- Have approach edges with an outer roll stop, operational when the hoist is elevated off the ground.
On the other hand, ramps mounted to a licensed WAT must:
- Have a slope (gradient) no steeper than one in six (1 in 6), and
- Have a width of no less than 800mm.
WATs operators are required to bring hoists and ramps to the manufacturer or an agent for servicing, to make sure they remain in good working conditions. These also need to align with Australian Standards.
So, how do you get an accessible taxi for your transportation?
In Australia, numerous taxi companies and apps provide transportation services to people with disabilities. There are two key methods that you can use to book an accessible taxi:
- Calling a taxi operator
- Booking on the internet through an app
Accessible Taxi Services and Areas they cover
Below is a break-down of some of the leading companies and apps that offer accessible taxi services.
Offers a centralised booking service for both WAT drivers and passengers. Their fleet is made up of clean, reliable and safe sedans and vans based in Sydney. Their buses can carry up to seven passengers and two wheelchairs at one time. Alternatively, other WAT vehicles can carry 1 wheelchair and some vehicles up to 4 passengers at the same time.
It is the leading taxi company in Australia serving Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales, with a fleet of more than 7,400 different types of vehicles. You can use the 13CABS app to book a WAT anytime or you can pre-book a week in advance. The app has a fare estimator and can track the location of your vehicle. It is available on Android and iPhone devices.
It operates in Sydney. It includes fleets of modern air-conditioned taxis including wheelchair accessible vans, station wagons, and sedans. You can book a cab via their website, the RSL Cabs App or call them directly. They accept a variety of payment methods such as cash, Cabcharge, RSL Cabplus and major credit and debit cards. Additionally, they participate in the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme.
It is based in Queensland with services offered across Brisbane, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Yeppoon, Warwick and Hobart. Their maxi taxis can carry up to 10 passengers or 2 wheelchairs and a smaller number of passengers. Also, their drivers are specially trained to assist people with disabilities. They offer in-app payments which mean you can avoid any hassles at your destination.
It has Wheelchair Accessible Taxis that are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Melbourne.
- This app allows you to:
- Pick the type of taxi you need. They offer standard, maxi, wheelchair accessible taxi, station wagon and silver service taxis..
- Book later – you can schedule a taxi two weeks in advance
- Add notes for the taxi driver, for example, ring the bell, wait out back or front, don't use the horn, go to the reception, etc.
- Receive a call or message from the driver upon arrival
- Give ratings of your past trips experience
They operate in Brisbane, Redcliffe, Toowoomba and Perth. You are able to book online taxis via their website, via their app or call them directly. They have over 150 Wheelchair Accessible Taxis available. They also have a rewards program that gives you points when you travel with them, participate in their online polls or surveys. Accumulating points means you can enter to win instant prizes or sweepstakes.
It is a transportation app where users can book their ride on the Uber app. You input your destination; compare the wait times and the rides available. After selecting your preferred option, you receive the driver’s contact and vehicle information. Once you get to your destination you don’t have to pay cash, it’s all done through the app via a credit card.
A key feature of Uber is the ability for both drivers and riders to give reviews of their journey. In 2015, Uber introduced uberASSIST in Australia. UberASSIST aims to provide additional assistance to people who may need it. UberASSIST drivers receive training from the Australian Network on Disability to ensure they have the knowledge and understanding of different needs of people who have disabilities. However, currently uberASSIST does not have ramps or lifts for wheelchair access so they are unable to accommodate people in wheelchairs who require the use of a lift.
The Wheelchair Accessible Taxi services named above have dedicated fleets of taxis for people with disabilities that provide them with improved access to taxis and the ability to get to where they need to be. They have flexible schedules and routes that facilitate unplanned trips and allow transportation outside the public transport system areas and hours of operation. Since there has been an increase in the number of WATS available for people with disabilities it has improved the ease of access and ability for people to travel around the cities they live in.