Making Taxi Services More Accessible

Advocates for Sight-Impaired Consumers is preparing a presentation to the Passenger Transportation Board of British Columbia in the spring of 2006 regarding the need to make taxi services more accessible to persons who are sight-impaired. We have written to a number of taxi meter manufacturers and suppliers of mobile data dispatch systems. We recognize that one's ability to independently access the amount of the fare and to understand the operating mode of the meter will not render the taxi as being completely accessible. However, it will represent a significant leap forward and add a degree of comfort and confidence for many taxi users.

Please review the following suggestions we are making to manufacturers and suppliers and feel free to contact us with additional recommendations that would enhance the accessibility of the meters and/or taxis in general.

Our letter, in part, reads:

"For people who are legally blind, taxi service provides a significant gateway to our independence and enables us to move around our communities at will. However, employing such services requires a great deal of trust on the part of the legally blind passenger. More specifically, sight-impaired passengers must not only trust that the driver will travel the most efficient and economical route but also trust in the driver to convey the actual fare recorded by the meter at the end of a trip. Having said this, it is our position the majority of taxi drivers are honest and fair-minded business people. Sadly though, we hear far too many stories from the legally blind community across Canada and the US regarding questionable fares, particularly when one is traveling an unfamiliar route.

During a recent trip to New York, the writer experienced the unique offering of a computer-generated receipt while exiting a Yellow Millennium Cab in Manhattan. The printed receipt provided such details as vehicle number, date, start time of trip, distance traveled, time duration of trip and total fare. This was an excellent, detailed record; however, it would not have been accessible to those who are totally blind or sight-impaired.

Our purpose in writing is to determine whether or not your company could, or already does, produce an audio component to your existing product line. Taxi meters with verbal messaging would address numerous concerns conveyed by not just the legally blind community but by persons with dyslexia and/or other cognitive disabilities.

We would suggest verbal messages that:

  • Announced when the meter is started, “Welcome to Yellow Taxi No. XXX. The meter has started at $(flag rate).”;
  • Announced the accumulating fare at five or ten dollar intervals;
  • Announced when the meter is placed in and taken out of “standby” mode;
  • Announced the total fare when the meter is stopped. This total fare message may also include a generic reminder such as, “The fare is $xx.xx plus tolls and/or fuel surcharges.”

Our organization is working closely with the provincial regulatory board that oversees the taxi industry throughout the Province of British Columbia. They clearly recognize their responsibility and duty to accommodate persons with disabilities. We are confident they will support, and likely regulate, the industry in providing this level of accessibility provided the technology exists. It is our goal to make this level of accessibility a standard throughout North America, starting here in British Columbia.

In closing, we would appreciate a response to two specific questions:

Does your current product line support a peripheral printer that would generate a printed receipt such as the one described above and, if so, could you approximate the cost of such a printer and supporting software?

Does your current product line offer a verbal messaging option that would deliver the information as described above? If not, are you considering such an option and what is the status in terms of delivering or introducing these features to the industry?

We look forward to your earliest possible response.

Sincerely,

R. E. (Rob) Sleath

Chair, ASIC


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