You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Push for Uber to get disability subsidies

AAP logoAAP 7/09/2016 Kaitlyn Offer

A Victorian man with mild cerebral palsy who was often refused service by taxi drivers who thought he was drunk says his "world changed forever" when he started using Uber.

Thomas Banks, director of disability awareness business Centre for Access, says taxi drivers would refuse him service because they thought he was drunk or he only wanted to go a short distance.

His experience with Uber, he told a parliamentary inquiry into ride services, was the opposite.

"My world changed forever when I was introduced to Uber last year," he said.

However, Mr Banks says he does not know anyone who uses a wheelchair who had been able to use Uber.

He told the inquiry a subsidy that halves taxis fares should be extended to ride sharing services to make them more accessible "because people with disabilities deserve a choice".

People with severe and permanent disabilities can get subsidised taxi fares through Victoria's Multi Purpose Taxi Program and drivers are paid a $16 lifting fee for picking up people with wheelchairs or scooters.

In a joint written submission to the inquiry, the Youth Disability Advocacy Service and Disabled Motorists also call for the MPTP to be extended and for subsidies to help ride sharing drivers modify vehicles to accommodate wheelchairs.

Uber's Victorian general manager Matthew Denman was unable to tell the inquiry on Thursday how many of the 14,000 Uber vehicles in the state had wheelchair access.

Uber had looked in to what it would take to create a wheelchair accessible vehicle service, but "even if we had a fantastic wheelchair accessible product, the (MPTP) subsidy couldn't flow to it," he told the inquiry.

Mr Denman said Uber wanted to work with the government to make the service more accessible.

In August Victoria announced plans to legalise Uber but also compensate existing taxi drivers.

The government is planning to scrap taxi licences to create a single registration system for cabs, hire cars and ride-sharing services.

A $2 levy on each trip from 2018 will partially fund an overall transition package worth $450 million, while the government plans to buy back licences for a maximum of $150,000.

The Victorian Taxi and Hire Car Families group, Victorian Taxi Association and Uber are all against the $2 levy.

The VTA says compensation for a metropolitan licence should be $250,000, the inquiry heard on Wednesday.

Uber argues there should not be any compensation and the government needs to release the analysis and economic modelling to justify it.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon