COVID-19 rules in the UK levied in recent times has not only made life difficult for taxi drivers but travelling of disabled people too. Taxi drivers are refusing to make these people sit in the front seats to prevent close contact. However, this goes against the 2010 Equality Act, which protects the rights of people with disabilities.
This has made campaigners to intervene with clearer guidance from licensing authorities to ensure disabled people do not face any equality law issue.
Stephen Cooke, who has having walking disability finding it difficult to walk or bend because of problems with his hips, He said, “I have never felt so blind before.”
For that reasons, he is unable to get into the back of minicabs, and instead has to travel in the front wearing a mask.
Drivers across UK say it is against the COVID-19 and regularly refuse to Stephen for the ride.
Mr. Cooke says drivers could potentially be in breach of the 2010 Equality Act, as there is no specific regulation to prevent him travelling in the front.
In an interview with BBC, he said, “When I ask them if I can travel in the front of the vehicle they will resist and say its not possible cause of the regulations.
“The last few months have been pretty hellish really, because whenever I use a taxi, I don’t know whether I’m going to have to argue with the person or not.”
Need of Reasonable Adjustments
Lynn Welsh, the head of legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, thinks there is not any clash, but there is a need of adjustments.
“I’m not sure I would call it a clash, but it has changed the mood slightly. I mean, ‘reasonable adjustments’ are always required but what is considered reasonable may have shifted during the period of an emergency.
“It is more of a person-by-person issue. The pandemic might change what ‘reasonability’ means but it doesn’t do away with the Equality Act.”
Alfie Wellcoat a driver and represents the United Private Hire Drivers union says, “It needs to be understood that there is a middle ground that they can be allowed in provided that it is safe enough with you.
“But obviously some taxi drivers are in high-risk categories so I can fully understand why they would not want to allow someone sitting in the front.”
Meanwhile, the Glasgow City Council said it has not released any kind of guidance to drivers. However, drivers need to follow the guidance set by the Scottish government.
According to the official statement, the reasonability element has to be considered in current climate, but the 2010 Equality Act should be considered.
Mr Cooke said he was not unsympathetic to the plight of drivers, but emphasised they could not simply hide behind Covid as a reason not to carry disabled passengers in the front of their vehicles.
He further said, “I don’t think the communication to public transport drivers and the like is as clear as it should be – something is missing somewhere.”