Millions of disabled people cut off by lack of accessible taxis

Millions of disabled people are struggling to access vital local services, work and other opportunities because of a lack of wheelchair accessible taxis, research by charity Leonard Cheshire has found.

Hannah getting into an accessible taxi
  • Millions of disabled people are cut off from opportunities due to a lack of accessible taxis.
  • 1 in 10 disabled people can never access taxis or Private Hire Vehicle (PHVs) when needed.
  • An estimated 7 million disabled people have experienced discrimination from taxi or PHV drivers.

A nationally representative survey revealed the stark impact lack of availability was having on disabled people’s daily lives, particularly for those in rural locations.

Almost two-thirds of disabled people – an estimated 8 million people – told the charity they could not always access taxis or PHVs when they needed them*. Worryingly, 1 in 10, roughly 1.4 million disabled people, said they could never access taxis or PHVs when they needed them*.

With taxis often the preferred choice for many disabled people, not being able to get one could make the difference between socialising with friends, being able to make a healthcare appointment or attending a job interview.

Joshua Reeves BEM, Campaigns Support Officer at Leonard Cheshire commented: “As a wheelchair user I have experienced my own challenges, but chairing the steering group for this research has opened my eyes to the barriers disabled people with different impairments face.

“We need more disability confident taxi companies so disabled people can have a balanced social life and get from A to B. I’m fed up of being told that accessible taxis are only used for hospital and school pickups, with many being cut off in the evening. Sadly, it seems disabled people are perceived not to go out at night!”

But the research shows that availability isn’t the only issue. Worryingly, almost half (48%) of those surveyed – an estimated 7 million disabled people – revealed they had experienced some form of discrimination and stigma from taxi/PHV drivers or operators, suggesting the problem is widespread.

One focus group participant told the charity:

“I am very wary of all [taxis, PHVs, and ride-hailing apps], and don’t tend to use any and am hyper aware of my safety due to my past experiences. The answer is I choose none of them at all and my independence and social life has definitely greatly suffered.”

Launched this week (23 January) in the House of Commons, the research, funded and supported by Motability the charity, explores how possibilities for accessible taxis and PHVs can be opened up.

Discussing some potential solutions to the problem, Gemma Hope, Director of Policy at Leonard Cheshire, said:

“While there has been some good progress enshrining accessibility into law in recent years, it’s clear there is still a way to go within the transport sector. In the context of the green agenda, we want to see the government putting forward financial incentives to help cover some of the upfront costs of wheelchair accessible vehicles and increase the supply of zero-emissions compliant wheelchair accessible vehicles on the roads.”

The charity is also calling for mandatory disability awareness training for taxi and PHV staff to help address some of the negative experiences disabled customers have had. Currently, only about half of local authorities require drivers to undertake training on how to support disabled customers.**

The research launch was sponsored and attended by Right Honourable Sir Jeremy Wright MP, who tightened legislation through the new Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles Bill (2022). The Bill makes it illegal for taxi drivers to turn away people with assistance animals, addressing some of the discrimination disabled people face.

“Where public transport is scarce, accessible taxis and private hire vehicles are not a luxury for people with disabilities, they are a necessity,” Sir Jeremy Wright MP commented. “The law has made progress in making them available, but there is further to go and many of us in Parliament believe that the work of organisations like Leonard Cheshire is ensuring that further progress.”

Driving Change: Improving the accessibility of taxis and private hire vehicles for disabled people

With the support of Motability, we’ve conducted comprehensive research to understand how accessible taxi and PHV travel can be become a reality for the UK’s 14.6 million disabled people.

Read the full report

Notes to editors

** Department for Transport. (2022b). Taxi and private hire vehicle statistics, England: 2022. GOV.UK.

Media enquiries

For more information contact erin.o’ or 020 3242 0342. Out of hours: 07903 949 388.

About the research

*Leonard Cheshire conducted a nationally representative survey with Savanta of 2,080 disabled people in England, Scotland and Wales.

We also conducted in-depth focus groups with 56 disabled people and 12 key informants, including taxi & Private Hire Vehicle drivers, licensing authorities, Disabled Persons Organisations.

Only a third of respondents stated that they could always access taxis/PHVs when they needed them (30%). Moreover, about 1 in 10 respondents said they could never access taxi/PHVs when they needed them (10%) and about the same number said they could “hardly ever” access taxi/PHVs (10%).

The UK disabled population for 2020/21 (latest figures available) was 14.6 million people.

Nationally representative figures are based on this statistic. Just over half (55%) of all taxis in England – and a mere 2% of Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) are wheelchair accessible.