Stevenage dad calls for better taxi services for disabled after he misses funeral of family friend

Stuart Archer was unable to book a taxi in Stevenage for a funeral he wanted to go to. Picture: Martin Elvery

Stuart Archer was unable to book a taxi in Stevenage for a funeral he wanted to go to. Picture: Martin Elvery

Archant

A father from Stevenage has highlighted a gap in transport for people with disabilities after he was unable to book a cab for a funeral he wanted to go to.

Stuart Archer at his Stevenage home. Picture: Martin ElveryStuart Archer at his Stevenage home. Picture: Martin Elvery

Stuart Archer, who lives in Kestral Way, says he is outraged after numerous taxi firms he spoke to said they could not get him to the funeral of a close family friend at Harwood Park Crematorium.

Stuart says the firms he contacted said he could not book a wheelchair-ready vehicle in advance and must phone at 9am on the day of the funeral. However, when he did so, he claims every firm he contacted said it had no cars available.

He told the Comet: “All the firms advertise saying they have disabled vehicles available, but when I called up there was nothing. How can they advertise this when it’s not available?

“I’m so furious I couldn’t get to this funeral because I’ve know this person for more than 30-odd years and I really wanted to be there.”

Stuart, who is 55, was left disabled from the waist down after years driving lorries and lifting heavy goods damaged the nerves in his spine.

He has a specially adapted wheelchair and must now take food through a tube as is swallowing mechanism is also damaged.

He now spends most days stuck in his small flat and can only see his children for short periods of time.

He said: “I had a sore back for a while and then one day when I went to go for a walked around the block I just collapsed.”

Stuart says he has faced similar problems before and has also come across some drivers who make it obvious they don’t want to deal with a disabled passenger because of the effort it takes to strap his wheelchair in.

He says he wants to highlight the issue so something can be done about it.

The Comet spoke to a number of private Stevenage taxi firms about the issue, asking about their service for people with disabilities.

All said they did have provision, but that this was limited to one or two vehicles.

Some firms said these had to be booked in advance and others that you have to call on the day.

All the businesses said the drivers are self-employed so the service very much dependent on their availability at any given time.

Stevenage Borough Council is responsible for the licensing of vehicles, drivers and private hire operators in accordance with the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. At the present time there is no requirement for private hire operators to include wheelchair accessible vehicles in their fleet.

Out of 100 Hackney Carriage vehicles in Stevenage, which can only be hailed at taxi ranks, 30 of them are wheelchair accessible.

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