A TERMINALLY ill charity campaigner who missed introducing Ed Miliband at the Labour conference after he had to call three taxis to pick him up has called for better treatment for disabled passengers.
Former Labour strategist Gordon Aikman – who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) last May – has made a formal complaint to Central Taxis as the first taxi he called to take him on the ten-minute journey to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre drove away as he was too slow to get to the door.
I’m still getting used to being in a wheelchair and I didn’t realise that getting transport like taxis can be such a problem. It’s shocking.”Gordon Aikman
The second taxi did not have a working wheelchair ramp.
Central Taxis boss Tony Kenmuir said he was concerned for Mr Aikman but his staff had done everything they could to address the problem.
Mr Aikman, of Meadowbank, met with council leader Andrew Burns yesterday to discuss the problems he has faced since he became wheelchair-bound a few weeks ago.
The 29-year-old said: “I’m still getting used to being in a wheelchair and I didn’t realise that getting transport like taxis can be such a problem. It’s shocking.
“Some drivers have driven past me and even when they do stop you can’t be sure that the ramps will work. We can and should do better than this.
“I had a positive meeting with Andrew Burns and we’ve agreed to work together to find a way to sort this out.”
Following their meeting, Councillor Burns said Mr Aikman’s experience was “unacceptable” and the council would work towards improving the situation for anyone with a disability.
Cllr Burns said: “What happened to Gordon is, of course, completely unacceptable.
“The purpose of today’s meeting was to discuss what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
“And we did discuss, and agree, various actions that we can take as the licensing authority to help towards that end.
“We want to make sure that wheelchair users in Edinburgh have a positive experience when using taxis and I would like to thank Gordon for highlighting this very important issue.”
Mr Aikman has also set up a meeting with Transport Minister Derek Mackay to discuss the issue.
Charity Capability Scotland warned that the problem is widespread and many disabled people face poor access to public transport as well as taxis.
A spokesman for the Edinburgh-based charity said: “Many disabled people will identify with the issues around access to taxis.
“We know that some taxi drivers will do everything they can to assist disabled passengers. However, we still hear of too many instances of disabled people having a poor passenger experience.
“Poor access to public transport, including taxis, is not only annoying and frustrating, it can also limit employment opportunities and educational choices, [and] cause disabled people to miss healthcare appointments and social engagements.
“It is therefore important that taxi companies, local authorities and other relevant agencies listen to what disabled passengers are telling them and work together to ensure disabled people aren’t left stranded in the future.”
Since his diagnosis, Mr Aikman has raised more than £221,000 for MND Scotland.
His campaign has also been credited with influencing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s decision in January to fund specialist MND nurses, who are currently paid for by charitable donations.