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Taxis and accessible vehicles

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People mover with wheelchair ramp at the back
Rear view of a taxi with a ramp down.

People with disabilities are more likely to use public transport and taxis as some can't drive or don't have the money to own a vehicle. It is therefore essential that public transport is accessible.

Obviously when starting with trains the platfoms should be accessible with lifts. A way for wheelchairs to get up is critical. This could be in automated ramps or manually operated portable ramps that the staff operate. If doing automatic you may want to consider what technology can be used to prevent accidents for example sensors that detect movement. There should be a good amount of space when you enter the carage.

Buses must be accessible for standard wheelchairs; usually this is just one area of the bus. Drivers need to stop for people with blindness. Occasionally people that have no vision have problems getting buses to stop for them.

Governments must be supportive of taxis. Just vans are no longer enough. Smaller vehicles can be modified so wheelchairs can go in them. this allows more of them on the road which is important to maintain people's independence. They should be as on demand as possible. If a friend suddenly decides to have a party and you have to wait 24 hours for a taxi that's inadequate.

Some governments enable discounted transport. For example in New Zealand we have the Total Mobility scheme which provides half price taxis for the first $80 of a trip. I also get $250 worth of vouchers from the Cerebral Palsy Society of New Zealand every six months. The combination is very handy since I travel to the airport a lot. Other people with disabilities generally have very limited income so providing discounts for something they may be forced to use could be beneficial.

There are two types of wheelchair taxis. The first are vans with hoists at the back. These are obviously on the bigger end of the spectrum. Internationally I have noticed move away from these vehicles. For some reason New Zealand where I live has not got with the program, all mobility taxis are vans. It is also worth noting that vans are more useful for school runs.

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The other common type are people movers. These have mounted or portable ramps where the wheelchair enters. This can be the at back or the side; some may even have hoists at the back. Obviously the floors must be a good weight to hold the wheelchairs. These have a smaller initial cost but may wear and tear more than vans. Ultimately these would still appear a cheaper option.

Some wheelchair users would appreciate more space but to me it is more important to have more accessible taxis on the road. I also prefer cheaper fares. If smaller vehicles achieve both of these things I say they're the best solution.

Taxis should be available 24/7

I go to Auckland a lot which is the biggest city in New Zealand but the taxi system is not acceptable. In most cases you need to book 24 hours in advanced which means if a friend suddenly decides to hold a gathering the person who is differently-abled can't go. This impacts our freedom. There are family emergencies to consider, the booking requirement would make getting to one impossible. I imagine companies would make exceptions in this circumstance but this is not guaranteed. As a last resort you would have to rely on friends with mobility vehicles or buses.

Buses are not always accessible and don't run at night. This is additionally problematic for people like me who like to go out clubbing. You basically have to own a mobility vehicle if you want to do this. This is not ideal for tourists that are differently-abled. Vans also costs hundreds of dollars per day to rent so this is not a good option unless you have the money. This could be a problem for domestic tourists.

Alternatively you could get taxis and I think that taxi companies should provide an way to book online since some people cannot use phones. It is worthwhile to offer phone bookings too though as some people don't like using the internet.

I can normally get a taxi on demand in Australian cities such as Sydney no problem. This says to me that the problem is not the size of the city. In Australia many accessible taxis are more compact; they are more like accessible station wagons so there are more of them on the road. New Zealand should encourage investment in this kind of technology.

We should be able to go anywhere that other citizens can. If other minorities had similar problems it would not be tolerated. We should not be second-class citizens in this way. It is critical that taxis are available when we need them and we can get them in a reasonable amount of time. China also had the same issue when I went there. Governments should work to resolve this issue if they are serious about increasing equality for citizens who have different transport requirements.

Automated Cars

The automated car could potentially revolutionize how people with disabilities move. Yes there are taxis but the technology promises to offer further independence which could be useful if people are visiting a special someone and don't want anybody to know. Taxi drivers also tend to gossip with their clients. While this normally isn't a problem; some people are anti social and really don't like talking to people. An automated car could have its benefits over a taxi driver.

However the technology needs tweaking, and not just the driving. There is the issue of tie downs. This can be automated but would require a mix of engineering and artificial intelligence. Of course it should not drive until tie downs are administrated. Manual tie downs are an option but this would defeat the purpose for people who can't do this themselves.

There's also legal obstacles in some countries they are suggesting having compulsory manual controls. This will obviously not work for people that have disabilities. I imagine this will be less of an issue when driving is more reliable.

How there are drawbacks to this technology. Car manufacturers must safe guard from hacking, errors from external vehicles and glitches. Hacking in the age of increased cyber warfare must get particular attention. There are ways; obey human instructions after the person confirm the instructions first and unchangable maps. However security holes happen all the time in computers; automated cars may be no exception and people governments and corporations to take care.

Automated cars have potential. I hope that I have raised some things to think about in the upcoming journey. Pun wasn't intended.

This page was originally published at 25/04/2018 05:34:10 UTC

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