Taxis have to offer people with disabilities a service equivalent to that offered to the rest of the population – UberX must comply with these requirements

Taxis have to offer people with disabilities a service equivalent to that offered to the rest of the population – UberX must comply with these requirements

Non-profit organization Kéroul is asking the Québec government to force taxi service intermediaries to offer people with disabilities who use motorized wheelchairs service equivalent to that offered to the rest of the population. UberX must also comply with the regulatory requirements applicable to taxis.

The taxi industry is an essential partner in the paratransit offer in Québec. And yet, although accessible taxis contribute to this public service, they are not available outside of paratransit contracts and do not offer a genuine taxi service.

The main reason for this lack of availability is that the Commission des transports du Québec limits the operation of “restricted permits”—which adapted taxis must use—by limiting their customers to people with disabilities! This situation is unique to Québec. This is reverse discrimination and prevents these permit holders from making a profit on their operations outside the institutional contracts by which they are bound.

Why does such a restriction exist? Because the taxi industry has argued for the protection of its market and the market value of its permits. So now we find ourselves at the centre of a debate that is raging before the Parliamentary Committee on Transportation and the Environment in Québec City.

Kéroul believes that it is possible to have an exemplary taxi service, without taxi permits, by focusing on the right regulatory objectives. Take London, for example, where the quality of taxis is world-renowned. There are no taxi permits in London—and therefore no permit transfer or market value—and 100% of taxis are accessible to people with disabilities. The market entry conditions limit the offer by way of demanding exams for taxi drivers and for the use of a professional vehicle.

Another reason why this transportation service is not available in Québec lies in the inability of taxis to work as a unit and adequately offer the variety of services an evolving market requires. This inability is due to the fragmentation of the industry: from the “self-employed” driver to the intermediary with limited authority, this lack of accountability has become systemic because it is easier to manage for operators, and because the authorities let it happen.

Biases have slipped into taxi legislation due to a mixture of laxity and complacency, in that its purpose in serving the public interest has been overlooked. The proof is in section 63 of the Taxi Transportation Regulation. It stipulates that any taxi service intermediary who provides services to at least 20 contracting parties must have at least one disabled accessible taxi in their fleet. This section was adopted by the Québec government in 2002. It was never applied. It was never revoked.

Forcing taxi service intermediaries to offer people with disabilities a service equivalent to that offered to the rest of the population should instill a culture of solidarity in the industry. Taxis must stop counting on individual initiatives and instead work together to respond to the diverse demands of a market that is undergoing demographic, economic and technological change. To act collectively, taxi permit holders must also be made accountable as transportation professionals and not vehicle rental agents.

In response to questions from the Ministère des Transports, Kéroul is suggesting a series of measures to instill this culture of accountability and service quality. Increasing regulatory requirements, and ensuring their monitoring and enforcement, will improve services and, in turn, reduce the market value of permits. This would prove that the “money” must go to the appropriate budget items.

For Kéroul, UberX is an intermediary like the others, the transportation it offers is a taxi service in all respects and, consequently, it must comply with the industry’s current and—we hope—future requirements.

To download the brief Kéroul submitted to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment on March 10, 2016 (In French only): Qui peut offrir aux personnes handicapées un service équivalent à celui dont dispose l’ensemble de la population? (Who can offer persons with disabilities service equivalent to that offered to the rest of the population?)

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About Kéroul: Founded in 1979 by André Leclerc, who remains its President and CEO, Kéroul is a non-profit organization dedicated to making tourism accessible to people with restricted physical ability. No transportation, no tourism. Kéroul works to ensure that the various modes of transportation are accessible. Kéroul also trains front-line staff in the tourism and transportation industry.

Lastly, Kéroul initiated and organized the first Destinations for All World Summit held in Montréal in 2014. This Summit drew more than 360 participants from 31 countries and several international organizations, including the UN, UNWTO and ICAO.

  • The taxi industry is an essential partner in the paratransit offer in Québec.

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