A wheelchair user, who travelled from London for a weekend at the seaside, was unable to catch a taxi from Worthing station because she was told there were no vehicles that could accommodate her wheelchair.
Gail Hutson, from Surbiton, who is totally paralysed down one side of her body and uses a power wheelchair rather than a manual chair, was told she had ‘the wrong kind of wheelchair’ for local taxis when she arrived at the station on Friday night.
The 60-year-old said she was told that accessible taxis in Worthing do not have the right kind of ramp to support the heavier weight of power wheelchairs.
Gail spent an hour at the station after arriving at 8.30pm trying to arrange transport to the Ardington Hotel in Steyne Gardens, before resigning herself to the fact she would have to travel there herself.
“It’s crazy,” said Gail, who is also partially blind. “It was getting dark and I didn’t know where the dropped curbs were.”
Fortunately, she said the ‘very kind’ owner of Arrow Taxis arranged for a driver to walk her to the hotel.
She said: “I think that deserves a big thank you. He didn’t have to do that, it was a totally busy time of night.
“There are good people in Worthing.”
Gail, who presents a show on the hospital radio station Radio Wey, said of the experience: “I feel robbed, I lost that whole evening with all the faffing around. And that kind of sets you up for the whole weekend.”
After spending two days in Worthing, in which she visited the pier and went to the cinema, Gail was faced with the same problem on Sunday when it was time to return to the station.
Again, she had to make her own way there.
Gail said her experience meant she would not be returning to the town.
“Worthing is not a seaside I can come back to,” she said.
A Worthing Borough Council spokesman said: “While we understand the individual’s frustration in this case, as the licensing authority we recognise that private hire vehicles are supplied by independent operators who are entitled by law to refuse passengers on safety grounds.
“In the case of large wheelchairs or mobility scooters, it is often extremely difficult to safely carry those passengers.
“This is due to the additional weight and the lack of specialist equipment to safely secure the wheelchairs in the vehicle.
“However, we do recognise the importance of improving transport options for those with limited mobility which is why we are taking steps to increase the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles.
“This number is increasing each year.
“We also recognise that it is not reasonable to expect that all licensed vehicles will be able to accommodate every non-standard wheelchair.
“For some of the heavier and larger wheelchairs or scooters specialised transportation may be required.
“A number of companies and community transport providers across both Adur and Worthing offer wheelchair accessible vehicles but these may need to be booked in advance.”