Wheelchair accessible taxis

PIAC successfully represented Greg Killeen in his disability discrimination complaint against the NSW Department of Transport and two Sydney taxi companies. As a result, all new wheelchair-accessible taxis must comply with new guidelines.

Accessible public transport is crucial to people with disabilities. Many taxis licensed in NSW as ‘wheelchair-accessible taxis’ were unsafe for wheelchair passengers and too small to access. Taxi doors failed to close properly and access ramps intruded into the passenger seating space.

Greg Killeen, who is a quadriplegic, sued the Director-General of the NSW Department of Transport and Infrastructure, and two taxi companies, Combined Communications Network and Austaxi Group, alleging that they breached the national Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Disability Standards).

In January 2011, the Federal Court found that the Disability Standards had been breached. As a result, the Department of Transport issued a new Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Measurement Protocol, increasing the minimum amount of useable space required for all new wheelchair accessible taxis. Since 1 October 2011, all new wheelchair accessible taxis must meet the new guidelines to be licensed.

Prior to the proceedings, PIAC secured a costs cap of $45,000 on behalf of Mr Killeen, which limited the costs that could be ordered against him if he lost the case. In addition, PIAC secured indemnity funding from IMF (Australia) (now Bentham IMF) and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia, who agreed to pay up to $45,000 if an adverse costs order was made against Mr Killeen. This costs protection and support was crucial to facilitating the litigation.

The case has ensured that ‘wheelchair-accessible taxis’ are genuinely accessible for wheelchair users.

Killeen v Combined Communications Network Pty Ltd [2011] FCA 27 (31 January 2011)

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