THE severe shortage of wheelchair accessible taxis in Dumfries and Galloway must be addressed urgently, councillors have insisted.
Numerous elected members have been contacted by disabled constituents who have been left stranded after hospital appointments, or cannot leave their homes because there simply haven’t been any suitable taxis available.
There are just three wheelchair accessible vehicles out of a fleet of 265 in the region – which equates to just one percent.
As the matter was discussed at the last full council meeting, North West Dumfries Councillor Graham Bell warned: “This council is probably facing the possibility of a breach of equalities legislation on this matter.”
A motion was tabled at the meeting by Abbey Councillor Davie Stitt, who called for a report to be produced exploring all ways to increase the number of accessible taxis in the region.
He said: “I was approached by a friend a couple of months ago whose mother is more or less a prisoner in her own house.
“To go to the local surgery, her other son has got to take her out rain, hail, or shine. There are bus services but they are not reliable, and sometimes not accessible for disabled people.
“It’s matter of urgency. We need to look at this.”
Council solicitor Caroline Treanor explained that a working group is being set up to address this issue, and that an action plan, survey, and taxi review is to be complete by the end of December 2024.
However, another 12 months without a resolution sparked a strong reaction from councillors.
North West Dumfries Councillor Paula Stevenson said: “I do think this needs to be looked at separately as a matter of urgency because the concern of disabled people that have approached me is that this is going to get kicked into the long grass again.
“This isn’t its first rodeo at full council. It’s been here before and been discussed before.
“If we’re serious about taking this forward with the urgency it deserves, then we need to ensure that disabled people are on the working group. Not only that, but we do meet regularly with taxi (licence) holders to ensure we hear their voice as much as anybody else.”
She added: “In fact, one constituent suggested that we try and live a day as a disabled person, and see what it’s like. I imagine if we did, this would move much faster than what we’re anticipating.”
Councillors agreed for a report to be brought forward to the communities committee early next year outlining options that could be taken.