General duties under the Act
A taxi driver falls into the category of “service provider” under the Equality Act 2010. Service providers are prohibited from discriminating against, harassing and victimising persons who possess the following “protected characteristics”:
Age (the provisions of the Act relating to age have, however, yet to come into force);
pregnancy and maternity;
religion or belief;
In addition, except in the case of pregnancy and maternity, the Act also protects
People who are unfairly treated because they are wrongly perceived to have a particular characteristic (or are treated as though they had it) or because they associate with someone who has one of the above characteristics.
Obligations in relation to disabled passengers
Assisting passengers in wheelchairs
This provision has yet to come into force but is expected to come into force not before April 2011.
When it does come into force drivers of “designated” wheelchair accessible taxis and private hire vehicles will be required to provide physical assistance to passengers in wheelchairs. This will include:
where a passenger wishes to remain in their wheelchair, helping them get into and out of the vehicle;
carrying wheelchairs where a passenger chooses to sit in a passenger seat and helping the passenger into a seat and back into the wheelchair;
ensuring that steps are taken to ensure that the passenger is carried in safety and reasonable comfort;
loading the passenger’s luggage into and out of the vehicle;
giving the passenger such mobility assistance as is reasonably required.
Taxi drivers and drivers of private hire vehicles will be prohibited from making a charge for providing such assistance.
Licensing authorities will be able to keep a list of designated vehicles and it is open to drivers who suffer from a disability or condition, for example, a back complaint, which would make it difficult for them to provide physical assistance to apply for an exemption to provide such assistance. It has been possible to make such applications since October 2010 even though the requirement to provide such assistance has not yet come into force.
If a licensing authority refuses to grant such an exemption the driver can appeal to the magistrates’ court within 28 days. Where a driver is granted an exemption they will be required to display a notice on their vehicles showing that they are exempt from such duties.
Taxi drivers and drivers of private hire vehicles are obliged to carry their disabled passenger’s guide dogs and cannot make an additional charge for the guide dog.
Drivers are able to apply for an exemption to carry guide dogs on medical grounds. If a licensing authority refuses to grant such an exemption the driver can appeal to the magistrates’ court within 28 days.
How is the Act enforced?
Where a provision of the Act is contravened proceedings can be brought through the Civil Courts. A wide range of remedies are available to the Civil Courts including the power to award compensation for injured feelings.
Normally claims brought in the Civil Courts will have to be brought within 6 years of the date of the act to which the claim relates.
If a taxi driver or driver of a private hire vehicle fails to comply with the requirements relating to disabled passengers then they commit a criminal offence and may be fined.