Wheelchair users ‘left on a limb’ due to lack of accessible taxis in Worthing

People who rely on wheelchairs ‘want to go out’ but struggle to find accessible transport, two residents have said.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 12:12 pm

People who rely on wheelchairs ‘want to go out’ but struggle to find accessible transport, two residents have said.

They said those who depend on wheelchairs are struggling to get around due to the lack of wheelchair accessible taxis in Worthing and surrounding areas.

Mike Dawson, 85, of Teign Walk, Durrington, has been in a wheelchair for just over a year after suffering around 50 falls in the space of 12 months, causing him to injure a nerve in his spine.

Patricia Shaddock, 70, who is wheelchair bound after suffering a brain and spinal stroke leaving her paralysed from the waist down, was stranded in Worthing due to there being no accessible taxis available to take Patricia and her Daughter, Charlotte, home

As a result, Mike is solely dependent on his electric wheelchair and relies on wheelchair-accessible taxis when going out.

Mike said that he has great difficulty with taxi firms in Worthing. He added: “There are only three taxi firms in Worthing that offer accessible vehicles, two of which only work till around 5pm and don’t work on Saturdays or Sundays.

“This is a problem for me, I may be an old man but I still like to take my wife out to restaurants, and I’d like to do so on weekends.”

During the week, Mike manages to get around fine with the accessible taxis, visiting the seafront and garden centres, but otherwise he feels restricted.

Mike Dawson, of Teign Road, feels 'restricted' due to unavailable Worthing taxis

Mike added: “I feel as if I’m left out on a limb along with lots of other people that would like to go out.

“What we want is somebody that will operate over the weekend, I’m sure it’s not just me looking.”

Patricia Shaddock, 70, of Blacksmith Crescent, Sompting, has been wheelchair-bound since she suffered a brain and spinal stroke due to complications in a surgery, leaving her paralysed from the waist down.

She lives with her daughter, Charlotte Smart, 36, who converted her conservatory to accommodate Patricia’s needs.

Independent Living, the care company who look after Patricia, sent their mini bus out to take Patricia and her daughter, Charlotte, home, after searching for a taxi for over three hours

On the evening of Monday, August 9, after their cinema trip to the Dome, Worthing, Patricia and Charlotte waited for an accessible taxi for two hours. Charlotte said: “We tried the taxi rank in Chapel Road, Worthing, and called Arrow taxis, they both tried to help but they couldn’t find any available taxis.

“In the worst case scenario, we would get a Pulse bus, but they kept getting cancelled.

“My mum’s wheelchair is so heavy, you can’t lift it or fold it, so we couldn’t figure out our own way home.

“Mum and I had no other choice but to start our walk home to Sompting along the seafront.

“I called Independent Lives who look after my mum, and even they tried to call taxis but still could not get anything.

“They offered to come and get us in the mini bus, but by the time they got to us we already had walked three quarters of the way home.

“They took us the duration of our journey, but by this time it was around three to four hours since we started looking for a taxi.”

A spokesperson from Arrow Taxis, in Railway Approach, Worthing, said: “As a company we try our best to accommodate as many customers as possible.

“We do have multiple vehicles on our circuit that are wheelchair accessible, but these can be booked up in advance, in these cases we offer customers the contact details of other local companies that may be able to assist.

“We are working with the local licencing authority to address the issue.

“As the drivers are all self employed they are free to invest in any type of vehicle they choose as long as it meets the local licencing requirements.

“As a company we advise the drivers of the types of vehicle that are more in demand which would of course include wheelchair accessible vehicles, but due to the knock on affect from COVID-19 there are not too many drivers looking to replace their vehicles at this current time.”

A spokesperon from Stagecoach said: “In common with many businesses a number of our drivers have had to self-isolate and this has unfortunately meant we’ve not been able to run all our services on certain days, including 9th August.

“We have worked hard to minimise disruption to passengers and we would like to apologise for the problems encountered last week, and we want to reassure customers that we are doing everything we can to ensure all our services operate as normal under these difficult circumstances.”

A spokesperson from Adur and Worthing Councils said: “The council have taken the decision that in addition to side loading Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) we now also allow rear loading vehicles, increasing the availability of vehicles to the trade.

“The licensing committee made the decision that any new Hackney Carriage vehicle licensed in Worthing will need to be a WAV.

“Unfortunately we do acknowledge the pandemic has had an impact on the number of new vehicles coming to the trade, but we continue to work with taxi business to increase numbers.

“There are a number of vehicle proprietors who have WAVs who choose to work during the daytime as they are involved in school runs for children with disabilities.

“The council is not able to tell vehicle proprietors what times they should work, but we will we continue to engage in positive dialogue.”