Mon, Jan 28, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Wheelchair-accessible taxi service planned

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications yesterday said it will introduce wheelchair-accessible taxi service for disabled or elderly passengers as well as for pregnant women in five special municipalities this year.

Currently, those wanting to use wheelchair-accessible bus service need to make reservations in advance, but the service is only available on certain routes at set hours.

The ministry said that the demand for wheelchair-accessible facilities is likely to rise as the nation ages. Aside from the wheelchair-accessible bus service, the ministry said that it plans to include taxis as part of the transport service.

The ministry added that similar services already exist in other countries. It said taxis in London were all equipped with wheelchair ramp foldouts, which drivers can use to assist passengers in wheelchairs to access the vehicle.

Wheelchair-accessible taxis in the US and Hong Kong allow those using electric wheelchairs to enter the car through a ramp at the back of the vehicle. The service in the US is available around the clock and taxis can be booked by telephone or online.

Based on the ministry’s plan, a trial run of the service is scheduled to be launched in the five special municipalities in the first quarter of the year. Disabled or elderly passengers and pregnant women are eligible for the service.

The ministry said that it was considering giving taxi drivers planning to offer such services a NT$400,000 subsidy toward purchasing properly equipped vehicles, which would also cover customs taxes.

A similar scheme was employed by the government for those importing low-floor or wheelchair-accessible buses, under which owners of these two types of vehicles were given custom tax-free privileges, the ministry added.

The subsidy would be given to taxi firms qualified to offer such services through a public review mechanism carried out by local governments who are in charge of regulating taxi services, the ministry said.

Subsidies would be granted to independent taxi drivers only if they are able to allow users to make reservations in advance, which the ministry said is necessary to make optimum use of the service.

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