Disabled feel unsafe riding in Perth taxis, call for Uber’s wheelchair accessibility option

James Davies feels unsafe with some taxi drivers. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d442169
James Davies feels unsafe with some taxi drivers. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d442169

JAMES Davies says he risks his safety every time he books a taxi to leave the house.

The 25-year-old Mt Claremont resident was born premature at 26 weeks with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, uses an electric wheelchair and requires around-the-clock care.

Mr Davies, a disability client services officer, relies on wheelchair-accessible maxi-taxis for independent transport, which he said were unreliable and often unsafe.

“I can’t just call and count on a well-trained driver showing up at my door,” he said.

“Sometimes they don’t know how to operate the hoist or strap the chair in, so if they drive around a corner I would tip right over.

“It’s not the drivers, it’s the system. I have made many formal complaints over the years that have come to nothing.”

A Department of Transport spokeswoman said all multi-purpose taxi drivers were required to complete a two-day training course.

Mr Davies said West Australian wheelchair users deserved a more reliable, safe and convenient transport alternative to taxis.

He said he wanted ride-share app Uber to launch its wheelchair accessible option UberWAV in Perth to utilise inactive disability vans, increase competition and make the system fairer on drivers and consumers.

“The system is disgracefully poor at the moment,” he said.

“If your regular drivers fall through, it’s an absolute nightmare.

“When I meet someone new who uses a wheelchair, my first question is: ‘Which drivers do you use?’ There are a few out there who are really good, and then there are those who just play the system. There is no mechanism for seeing what they are like when you make a booking. But with Uber you see their face, their name and their rating.”

Mr Davies said there were hundreds of wheelchair accessible vans associated with disability service providers that were only in use during work hours.

“A ride-share app could be an avenue for carers to make some more money, and for associations to better use their fleet,” he said.

An Uber Australia spokesman said the company was speaking with WA disability groups for better ways to provide transport for people in fixed wheelchairs.

“While we have no plans to launch any additional services at this time, we will continue to explore how we can provide more transport options for Perthians with different accessibility requirements,” he said.

The Department of Transport did not respond before deadline to questions regarding multi-purpose taxi safety standards, potential solutions to Mr Davies’ concerns and whether taxi vouchers could be made available for UberWAV.

Mr Davies said he had to factor in a couple of hours buffer every time he left the house in case the taxi was late or did not turn up.

“I have care support, I have my degree, I have a job. All those things have fallen into place. This is one of the final issues that urgently need to be addressed for people like me.”