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Handicapped community left feeling like ‘pawns’ in taxi vs. ride-sharing war

The Vancouver Taxi Association says it will level the playing field by no longer subsidizing accessible vehicles. Sarah MacDonald has more on the potential impact on people with disabilities.

Vancouver — Disabled passengers are outraged after the Vancouver Taxi Association announced that it would no longer subsidize drivers who operate accessible vehicles. The decision follows after the province’s approval of ride-hailing companies who aren’t required to include such vehicles in their fleet.

Consequently, members of Metro Vancouver’s handicapped community say they feel like “pawns,” caught in between a war.

“How on earth are people with disabilities going to get around?” asked wheelchair user Monica Gärtner. “This is really not appropriate to use us as a bargaining chip in order to get your way.”

Furthermore, she said there’s already a shortage of accessible vehicles on the road. This movement will only worsen their situation and have a significant impact on the lives of people with disabilities.

“What about work, what about social activities? It’s important for people to get out at night. If you can’t get a transportation ride, what are you going to do? Sit at home and look at the four walls all day? Well, of course, you’re going to get depressed or have anxiety,” she said.

Meanwhile, Vancouver Taxi Association spokesperson Carolyn Bauer defended their decision. According to him, cab companies had always found ways to make it worth drivers’ time to operate the vehicles.

“Other companies incentivize their drivers by offering them $5 extra per trip to push them out to make sure that they are making money.”

However, Yellow Cab president Kulwant Sahota argues that employees are switching over to ride-hailing companies.

“Everybody here is here to feed their families, and if they can’t make an income from driving these vehicles, then what you do?”

Moreover, taxi drivers say operating an accessible cab comes with major costs. This includes lost time and fewer fares. They also argue that it doesn’t make sense for them to choose the vehicles without a subsidy.

Kushwinder Diwana, a Black Top taxi driver with 20 years experience in the region, said driving one of the vehicles means spending more and earning less.

“Nobody wants to drive those vehicles, that’s why I’m driving a sedan car today. Because if I drive an accessible vehicle I will take 50 percent less home,” he revealed in an interview. “Why would I pay from my pocket? I’m a driver.”

CKNW producer and wheelchair user Ben Dooley claims that the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) didn’t seem interested in supporting wheelchair users.

“I don’t understand why the PTB is allowing ride-hailing vehicles to operate without providing accessible transportation,” said Dooley. “I don’t understand why the PTB is allowing ride-hailing vehicles to operate without providing accessible transportation.”

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