The London Black Cab is not all it's cracked up to be
This review is especially helpful for those who have or use the following: Wheelchair, Powerchair
In theory all London 'black cabs', i.e. the traditional taxi which can be hailed in the street, are wheelchair accessible and wheelchair-friendly. The reality, however, does not live up to this rosy picture painted by London's transport authority TfL (Transport for London). I have had numerous difficulties with black cabs, and I try to avoid using them whenever possible.
Transport & Parking
Every London black cab is equipped with a wheelchair ramp. This sounds like great news. The reality is different. (1) The ramps are terribly flimsy. (2) They are always too short, with the result that when deployed on most kerbs they are far too steep to be either safe or comfortable. (3) There is too little headroom to enter the taxi comfortably while seated in your wheelchair. (4) It can take a long time to deploy the ramp - they get stuck, and drivers often mislay the key needed to unlock the ramp for deployment. (5) Once you're inside the cab, there isn't room to turn around, so inevitably you emerge from the cab backwards down a very steep slope, which can be terrifying and is certainly not safe, even when a well-meaning cab driver is guiding you with his hands on the wheelchair handles. On one occasion a driver yanked me roughly down the ramp, with the result that my wheelchair (with me in it) fell off the ramp sideways. Luckily I wasn't injured and my wheelchair wasn't damaged, but it could have turned out very differently.
Unsurprisingly, London taxis aren't equipped with toilets.
I have had mixed experiences with London cabbies. Some of them refuse to stop for a wheelchair user. Some are delightfully friendly and helpful. Some ask intrusive questions about my reason for using a wheelchair. Some cabbies start the meter the moment you hail them, & then take a very long to to find the key to unlock and deploy the ramp, which means that you are being charged extra for being a wheelchair user, which is illegal - and prosecutions have been successfully brought against black cab drivers for this. Some treat me as if I'm an imbecile. Some have ex-military friends who are wheelchair users and are thoughtful, tactful & well tuned-in to the concept of disability.
Anything else you wish to tell us?
I hate using black cabs. I hate the dangerously steep and flimsy ramps, the risk of getting an unfriendly driver, or a driver who wants to rip me off by starting the meter too early. I hate having to crick my neck because there isn't enough headroom to get into the taxi. I hate leaving a taxi backwards down a steep ramp. I hate the prospect of being treated as an imbecile. If I can possibly avoid taking a taxi I will, even if the alternative is a long and tedious bus journey, or a tiring self-propel to my next destination.