Response to ACT Government Consultation Road Transport (Public Passenger Services) (Taxi Industry Innovation) Amendment Regulation 2016
Date: 20 April 2016
Copyright April 2015 People With Disabilities ACT Inc
This publication is copyright. Apart from use by those agencies for which it has been produced, not-for-profit associations and groups have permission to reproduce parts of this publication as long as the original meaning is retained and proper credit is given to People With Disabilities ACT. All other individuals and agencies seeking to reproduce material from this publication should obtain the permission of the Executive officer of People With Disabilities ACT.
Contact : Robert Altamore
Phone: (02)6286 4223
People With Disabilities ACT Inc, (PWD ACT,) is a not for profit consumer systemic advocacy organisation which represents the interests of people with disabilities in the ACT. Our commitment is to improve access to all amenities and to all forms of information and activities in the ACT community for people with disabilities. PWD ACT also works to inform the community about disability issues. PWD ACT advocates from a human rights perspective and acknowledges the UN Convention on the Rights of People With Disabilities.
The text of this Convention can be found at http://www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/convention.htm
Article 9 ‘accessibility’ and Article 20 ‘personal mobility’ of this Convention, are directly relevant to this submission.
PWD ACT does not address each aspect of the suite of Regulations. We have focussed on the areas of access to taxi, hire car and point to point transport which most affect people with disabilities.
We point out that people with disabilities in the ACT are disproportionately affected by social and economic disadvantage, have lower incomes than most ACT residents, experience higher rates of unemployment, have poorer health outcomes and lesser opportunities for economic and social participation. In relation to health outcomes we refer to the various reports of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s on health services published since 2010 available from the Institute’s website. In relation to the disproportionate social and economic disadvantage experienced by women with disabilities we refer the Commission to the various submissions to the ACT Government made by Women With Disabilities ACT which are available from their website such as:
In relation to transport, we note the recent Media Release by ACTCOSS which points out that Canberra has high transport costs and many Canberrans are spending more on transport than food. This would be true for many people with disabilities for whom taxis are the only viable transport option. This is so even when the levels of subsidy under the Taxi Transport Subsidies Scheme (TTSS) are taken into account
- PWD ACT believes that the ACT Government should take the opportunity to require the Taxi, Hire Car, Ride Sharing and all other transport modalities using the TBS adhere to compliance obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act consistent with the way that buses have compliance obligations under the Act. Ride sharing services should have the same responsibilities to meet their legal obligations as any other provider of goods and services to the public. Now is the time to ensure this happens before ride sharing becomes the dominant non bus transit provider in the ACT. Waiting until ride sharing grows in market share only defers an inevitable set of problems for government and an ageing Canberra community that needs accessible transport. Ride sharing services in Canberra should be subject to the Disability standards for accessible public transport.
- Companies offering ride sharing services should be required to provide an accessible component to their fleet in the same way that Taxis are required to offer WATS.
- It should be clear that companies operating ride sharing services face sanctions for excluding people with any kind of disability including people with companion animals, diverse appearance, psychosocial disability, intellectual or cognitive disability, physical or sensory disability or other forms of disability
- The government is deregulating the Wheelchair Accessible Taxis (WATS) in the wrong areas. The Government should deregulate the requirements to offer all wheelchair taxi’s in a standard vehicle type, noting the longstanding concerns held by users with the transit vans, and introduce a range of vehicle types and service offers within WATS while retaining some vans able to accommodate larger chairs. They should not deregulate the requirements that WATS provide a high standard service including air-conditioning, vehicle cleanliness and dress standards. There are already ongoing issues with the presentation of drivers and vehicles in WATS and we believe that reducing requirements in these areas could send the wrong messages in a section of the industry working with vulnerable users. The removal of the requirement for air-conditioning in general taxis and hire cars may also disproportionately disadvantage people with disabilities who suffer temperature sensitivity as a consequence of their disability or health condition.
- Requirements about braille signage and audio announcements from meters should be strengthened.
Minimum Standards for Booking Services
In relation to customer complaints the Minimum Standards should include a requirement for a TBS to have complaint procedures that facilitate the making of complaints by people with disabilities including provision for the making of complaints by people who have difficulty communicating in speech or writing and provision for the making of complaints through an advocate. The Regulations do not currently include these requirements. These complaint provisions should also be included in the Minimum Standard Regulations relating to Taxis, Independent Taxi Services, hire cars and ride sharing.
Minimum Standards for Taxi Services
The Regulations should include a requirement for taxis to carry and maintain the raised lettering and braille identification signage on the doors of taxis. This signage is a safety matter and should not be treated as a discretionary matter of taxi livery or signage which can be dispensed with.
The minimum Standards Regulations should include a provision drawing attention to the requirement for taxi drivers to comply with discrimination laws with particular reference to accepting hirings from people with disabilities and people with guide dogs and other assistance animals. The prevalence of complaints in this area points to the need to reinforce these requirements in the Minimum Standards Regulations. A similar provision should be included in the minimum standards regulations relating to independent taxi services, hire cars and ride sharing.. This provision is critical for ride sharing to clearly communicate to members of the community providing this service their obligations and to create from the start a culture of acceptance of people with disabilities as customers of the ride sharing industry.
PWD ACT points out that the removal of English language requirements for taxi drivers will disproportionately disadvantage people with disabilities. This is so because people with disabilities such as vision and mobility need to be able to communicate with the taxi driver when using a taxi or hire car especially on matters such as their needs for assistance from the taxi to the entrance of their destination, matters relating to the securing of wheelchairs and completion of TSS and cabcharge documents. Other jurisdictions with progressive and innovative taxi services such as Singapore retain strict language requirements for drivers.
We take this opportunity to direct attention to the fact that current taxi metres are inaccessible to people who cannot see or read the metre. The technology exists to overcome this problem through the use of talking or audible taxi metres. We take this opportunity to call on the ACT regulators and the taxi and ride share industry to work together with a view to introducing and then mandatory taxi metres which are accessible to all taxi, hire care and ride share users.
Although this is not strictly a matter for the regulations, PWD ACT points out that their needs to be a community mechanism to monitor the impact of deregulation of the on demand point to point transport market. This mechanism should be set up by the Chief Minister’s Department and should include representatives of people with disabilities and their organisations. PWD ACT would welcome the opportunity to work with the Chief Minister’s Department to develop the structure and Terms of Reference for such a community monitoring body.