NEW laws that have come into force for taxis and private hire vehicles will make the most significant change to accessibility in 12 years, says the Department for Transport.

The Government says that the legislation will ensure that disabled people receive help and can travel with dignity and confidence, and will be protected against extra charges when travelling by taxi.

The new Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Act 2022 amends the Equality Act of 2010. It places duties on taxi drivers and PHV drivers and operators, so any disabled person has specific rights and protections to be transported and receive assistance when using a taxi or PHV without being charged extra.

As part of the amendments, taxi and PHV drivers could face fines of up to £1,000 if they fail to provide reasonable mobility assistance to disabled passengers taking a pre-booked vehicle.

The law will also ensure that visually impaired passengers will be assisted by drivers to help them identify or find the vehicle, and there will be a duty for local authorities to publicly identify wheelchair-accessible vehicles in their fleets.

The measures will apply to drivers in England, Scotland and Wales.

Wendy Morton, Accessibility Minister, said: “Disabled people account for around a fifth of the population (13.7 million people) and our Inclusive Transport Strategy is making travel more accessible for all.”

The Act was a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Jeremy Wright QC MP.

Another change will mean that even drivers granted exemption from assistance duties on account of medical needs must still accept the carriage of disabled passengers and will not be able to charge them more than others.

In March 2022, DfT announced a £2.5 million package to help disabled people travel more confidently.

This included funding towards mobility centres across England and to enhance access to lifeline ferry services.