A taxi driver who intimidated an MDUK staff member and her PA has been the first to be prosecuted under new rules.
The Equality Act has applied to taxi drivers since last spring and they can now be fined up to £1000 if they refuse wheelchair users or try to charge them more.
Emma Vogelmann, who works in MDUK’s Trailblazers team and is a powerchair user, was trying to get a taxi in London from King’s Cross to her second day of work at the charity in Southwark last October. However, her taxi driver attempted to start the meter before she had boarded the vehicle, against the rules.
Her PA challenged the driver and Emma, a law graduate, tried to show him the new rules.
He angrily refused to take them unless he could charge them extra. They left his vehicle and went to a second taxi, but the first driver tried to block in the second vehicle, forcing Emma and her PA to call the police.
He has now been prosecuted after Transport for London brought a case against him.
“When my PA asked him not to start the meter he said that he would do the same for someone with a lot of bags and cases. She tried to point out that I’m not a bunch of bags while we tried to show him the law.
“He was so angry and it was a really scary experience for both me and my PA – he not only yelled at us in his vehicle but drove around to try and stop us from leaving at all.
“My experience was terrible but the new rules simply aren’t well known – the driver and even the British Transport Police didn’t know about them on the day. I’m hoping that after this case there is no excuse. Taxi drivers need to treat wheelchair users equally.”
Nic Bungay, Director of Campaigns, Care and Information at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said:
“Emma’s case is shocking, and is yet another example of how disabled people have to resort to legal action to be treated equally.
“The new rules have been so quietly introduced, but taxi drivers and the police alike now need to read up on them so that others don’t face the intimidation that Emma and her PA did.”
The new rules are so far patchily applied across the UK. While TfL governs taxi drivers in London, councils are responsible outside the capital, and most are yet to do the paperwork necessary for other taxi drivers to be held accountable. Muscular Dystrophy UK is calling for the rule to be applied everywhere.