The black cab is a true British icon, just like a red post-box or Her Majesty the Queen. However, they are even more special to me than the average person as my father drives one and has done for the past 30+ years. It has changed shape slightly over the years but since I could walk/get out of my chair up until five years ago, accessibility wasn’t something I gave much thought to. I just assumed, like most people, that the facilities were perfectly fine for disabled people using public transport. Now I can see that in terms of being wheelchair friendly, the classic taxi is an absolute disgrace.
I try to avoid getting them in Central London because it is just easier to wheel on to a bus (they’ve definitely improved accessibility wise over the past few years) and a lot cheaper to be fair. I went to watch Britain’s Got Talent auditions last week in the West End and seems as my dad was working that day, I got him to give us a lift. I forgot for a brief second why taxis are off limits for me. Yes, there is a ramp that comes out but that is where the accessibility stops.
The person who invented and drew up the first ever cab clearly believed that one size did fit all. A small person in a small wheelchair would probably have no problems but the majority of disabled people are not small and do not have a small wheelchair so will certainly encounter issues. I’m not outrageously tall (5'11) and have an average chair. But even I had to duck whilst getting in. My head was touching the ceiling and everytime we would go over a speed bump, you can guess what was happening. I can’t understand why these taxis haven’t been modernised. A higher roof would resolve that issue immediately.
Another problem is space. Like I said, my chair is not massive but I had to take my footplates off just so I could turn to get in the correct position. I took up quite a bit of room so my carer (who sat opposite me) had no space for her legs. It was all very snug and cramped, a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare. Again, the answer is simple. The taxi needs to be longer so that there is more room to accommodate the wheelchair. I hope that next time the current design needs upgrading they consult disabled people or at the very least, read this post.