Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario
"TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER"

         



Council Urged To Accommodate More Disabled

Tue, May 6, 2008
TAXIS: Industry split on issuing more licences for wheelchair-accessible cabs
By PATRICK MALONEY

London should double the number of wheelchair-accessible cabs on its roads to 17 -- but allowing any more could all but destroy the taxi industry, one company owner says.

Geoff Parkins, who owns U-Need-A Cab, says a proposed bylaw that would remove the limit on accessible taxis -- the city has issued only nine such licences, which critics say is nowhere near enough -- is a dangerous idea.

"It's fine to be proactive, but it may be a disaster to be overactive," Parkins told council's environment and transportation committee during a public input session last night at Centennial Hall.

Because the proposed bylaw would also allow accessible cabs to pick up able-bodied fares, the issue has morphed into a fight over the nature of the entire industry.

A group calling itself the London Taxi Drivers Association says the change, which would effectively allow an unlimited number of cabs on city streets, would free drivers from the city's two main cab companies, U-Need-A and Aboutown.

Both those companies have criticized parts of the bylaw, saying it could turn a city- regulated industry into chaos.

In a letter, Aboutown president Jim Donnelly said 13,000 of the 3.5 million taxi calls in London last year required wheelchair accessibility.

Adding a few new plates would fix any problems, he said.

But it was clear the disabled Londoners in attendance last night want attention kept on what they consider the real issues -- equality and fairness.

The city's Paratransit system often requires them to call three days in advance to secure a ride.

The existing accessible cabs, all operated by Aboutown, need a day's notice.

Tutis Villis, who is wheelchair-bound, asked Londoners to consider how difficult it is for a disabled person to meet a friend for drinks, something most can do at a moment's notice.

"London should have a taxi system that allows a handicapped person the same right," he said.

Josh Vander Vies, a University of Western Ontario student who was born without arms and legs, planned to tell the committee about London, England, where every cab is wheelchair-friendly.

One cabbie equated the fight to that of black U.S. civil rights heroine Rosa Parks, who refused to sit at the back of a bus.

While Coun. Steve Orser, who supports the bylaw changes, predicted a fiery debate, there was no sniping in the early going last night.

Committee chairperson Coun. Cheryl Miller urged the audience of 200 to stay civil.

Reproduced from http://lfpress.ca/newsstand/News/Local/2008/05/06/5481336-sun.html

More Transportation articles.