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London’s taxis - accessible for everyone

London is becoming a lot more accessible for disabled travellers. I’ve yet to visit a museum, art gallery or attraction where ramps and lifts have not been installed. Adaptations, and the recognition of people with wheelchairs or mobility issues, are universal. Woe betides those public places that don’t make an effort.

London needs to show that it’s open to everyone. Almost 20 million people will visit the capital this year and forecasts indicate numbers will rise. Public transport still has some ground to make up. Most buses are accessible and more tube stations are becoming wheelchair friendly. Journey planning can sometimes be made easier by checking with Transport for London: www.tfl.gov.uk.

London’s black cabs

There is one mode of transport that has been fully wheelchair accessible for years, and that is the London taxi. Dear reader, it is so easy to use London’s black cabs. I’m both a London cabbie and a London tour guide and over the years I have had a lot of wheelchair users in the back of my cab, both Londoners and tourists.

Most London taxis are now TX2’s or TX4’s. They still have the high roof, originally so that a gentleman could be seated wearing his top hat, which means wheelchair and scooter users can remain seated for the entire journey, without bumping head.

Every London taxi has a ramp fitted into the rear passenger floor space. The ramp can slide in and out to enable a bump free and, most importantly, ‘tip’ free boarding. Sturdy yellow handles are placed strategically so that hands can grab and hold, to stabilize transition in and out of the cab.

The front luggage area next to the taxi driver can easily store a folded wheelchair and even the more modern small collapsible scooter - which is becoming more popular with the wheelchair using tourist.

London taxis also have a swivel seat for those passengers who have mobility issues, but don’t require wheelchairs. Very useful for people with walking sticks or crutches.

How to get your taxi

In central and inner London (approx. Zones 1 & 2 on the tube map) taxis can be found pretty much anywhere day or night. If the taxi hire light is on, the cab is free. Hail it.

Most large hotels, main line stations, attractions and entertainment hot spots will have taxi ranks. If you need a cab and you can see the taxi rank, head there and approach the first taxi on the rank.

It is illegal for a taxi driver to turn down a wheelchair passenger once they stop the cab or are approached on the taxi rank. They can be reported if they do this. I’ll admit, some of the more elderly cabbies may not have the strength to help you, so move onto the next one. But don’t let the one or two grumpy cabbies put you off (and there are only one or two).

The age of the ‘app’

Taxis can also be booked through two London taxi apps called Hailo and Get Taxi. You’ll need a smartphone to download the apps:

Hailo: www.hailocab.com/london

Get Taxi: www.gettaxi.co.uk

Both systems use licensed London taxis and operate on the ‘nearest cab’ principle, so the wait shouldn’t be long.

London is a big city and sometimes the travel distances between places, even in the centre, can be quite long. London’s taxis can help make the journey easier.

Note: some London taxis are Mercedes Vito’s and if you’re reading this in the archives the Nissan taxi may also have been launched (2015).

Graham Greenglass: Biography

Graham Greenglass is a London taxi driver (black cab), London tour guide and proud Londoner. Graham runs London tours through his company London Cab Tours and website: www.londoncabtours.co.uk

Tour themes:

London Highlights

London Rock’n Roll: Beatles & Beyond

London Horror: A Way of Death

London’s East End: Rabbis, Riots and ‘The Ripper’

London of Dickens & Shakespeare

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