British Columbia

Taxi drivers picking up HandyDART riders need more training say disability advocates

Taxi drivers who pick up HandyDART passengers are currently not required to have any disability sensitivity training. Disability advocates say that has to change.

The taxi driver refused to let her out of the cab says Joy Calibete

Translink can defer HandyDART requests to taxis if the user has to wait more than 30 minutes. (CBC)

Disability advocates are calling for disability sensitivity training to be a requirement for taxi drivers who pick up HandyDART passengers.

"There have been way too many experiences where people who have mobility aids have been injured themselves or have had their equipment injured," said Heather McCain, executive director of the advocacy group Citizens for Accessible Neighbourhoods.

TransLink started deferring some HandyDART requests to taxis in 2013, a move that prompted harsh criticism from users and drivers. Riders are required to either produce a bus pass, a bus ticket, or pay the equivalent to the taxi driver.

HandyDART rider Joy Calibete describes how one taxi driver reacted when they got to her destination.

"The driver, when we got to the destination which was home, refused to let me out of the cab because he stated I needed to pay the full 20 dollar fare."

When Calibete refused, she says the driver started screaming at her and threatening to take her back to the pick up point. He wouldn't let her out of the taxi.

"I was in the cab for about 15, 20 minutes," she said. "They're picking up people with disabilities and this is how they're treating them or ripping them off. It's just not fair."

More training needed

HandyDART drivers receive two weeks of training, including hands-on and disability sensitivity training. The Vancouver Taxi Association provides a video and training booklet on the topic and the BC Taxi Association is working with the Justice Institute to bring a higher level of training to their drivers.

But disability advocates say those measures are not enough. McCain says even taxi drivers who mean well can do damage.

"One taxi driver applied the hook, which secures the wheelchair, into the spokes of the tire. And by the time the ride was over, the tire was ruined," she said.

These type of incidents are more than a mere inconvenience, she added.

"This is something that completely alters that person's ability to get out."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled Why taxi drivers need more disability-sensitivity training.

With files from Ash Kelly.