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For many people with disability, taxis are an essential form of point-to-point transport to get to essential medical appointments, employment and broader social occasions. While many people with disability can ride in standard taxi vehicles, some rely exclusively on wheelchair accessible taxis (WATs), which are customised to transport people who use wheelchairs. Supply of taxis, including WATs is particularly important in rural and regional areas of NSW, where there is a reliance on these services since minimal alternative public transport is available.

Since 2020, the Physical Disability Council of NSW has had increased reports of issues related to taxi services from people with disabilities, to the point where many people with disability no longer consider taxis to be reliable, despite their necessity as an essential mode of transport. These issues relate to the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme (the TTSS), the availability of WATs, and general use of services and are creating barriers to society for people with physical disability.

In February of 2023 the Physical Disability Council of NSW (PDCN) ran an online survey on the experiences of people with disability using taxi services. This survey sought to understand the extent to the issues people with disability are facing with taxi services and the prevalence of these issues, with a focus on the TTSS. Most respondents were from metropolitan areas of NSW (71%), 24% from regional areas and there was also a small proportion of respondents from rural areas of NSW. All those surveyed were people with physical or sensory disabilities, ranging from vision impairment and blindness to manual and power wheelchair users.

Data from this survey provides clear evidence that the point-to-point transport network is not meeting the needs of people with disability, and that industry practices are in fact, are actively discouraging people with disability from using taxis and participating in society. While it was clear there are obvious benefits and positives to taxi services, our survey indicates that the way the TTSS Smartcard has been rolled out, and ongoing issues with customer service and bookings outweigh the positives for most users.

Key recommendations:

  1. Transfer to the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme (TTSS) smartcard system across the whole NSW taxi fleet must be achieved, and provider barriers to the adoption of the TTSS smartcard must be resolved.
  2. The NSW Government must provide additional incentives for drivers to take on wheelchair accessible taxis (WATs) to increase the WAT fleet, particularly in limited markets.
  3. Create and enforce a single streamlined central booking system across the whole state.
  4. Nationalise the interstate booking system.
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