The Big Issue : Edition 437
ADVERTISEMENT Sound Bites M In conversation with Jenny Boulton any people with disability rely on taxis to get around – to appointments, to work and to get out into the community. Taxi drivers provide a service that many cannot receive in any other way. I have heard many stories about taxi drivers who are reliable and trustworthy and who have become very important in the lives of people with disability. But I have also heard some very disturbing stories about discrimination against people with disability as well. These stories are very distressing, from a human rights and a very personal perspective. From what we hear in the press, incidents of blatant discrimination are increasing. Like the clamp-down on racist behaviour at the football and on public transport, inappropriate behaviour against people with disability by taxi drivers must end. Recently, Milly Parker, a wonderful advocate for people with disability who also happens to be Yooralla’s first-ever Disability Ambassador, was left in tears after a driver refused to accept her Multi Purpose Taxi Card (MPTP). The driver did not believe that she was entitled to the card. He told her, “You don’t look sick”. Milly has an Acquired Brain Injury received 20 years ago in a horrific car accident. As a result, she experiences persistent headaches, memory loss, vision impairment, and fatigue. Her disability is real, is debilitating and means that she cannot drive a car. She lives a full and active life owning her own business and being a strong disability advocate, but relies on taxis to get around every day. While Milly’s case is about someone who doesn’t look “sick”, at the other end of the scale there are people denied the right to use a taxi because they happen to use a wheelchair. I have heard stories about drivers who apparently prefer to avoid the hassle of managing the chair or assisting the passenger. They just keep driving. Education is the key to understanding - disability will affect approximately 20% of the population at some point in their lives, including us or someone close to us. Yooralla would be prepared to work with the Victorian Taxi Directorate to draft a brochure in a number of languages that taxi and hire car drivers would be encouraged to read, explaining the different types of disability they’re likely to encounter and the various subsidy schemes in operation. *A Multi Purpose Taxi Program Card (MPTP) is a Government subsidy scheme issued to eligible Victorians with severe and permanent disability who also experience financial hardship. Jenny Boulton is General Manager, Lifestyle Support and Choice, Specialist Services, with Yooralla. She is one of Australia’s most experienced administrators in the disability field and a highly-regarded advocate for change. “Milly was so upset . . . she fled the taxi in a panic. On this occasion, as soon as Milly entered the taxi she showed the driver her MPTP card. The driver, having decided that Milly wasn’t entitled to the card, asked to see her driver’s license. She told him that because of her brain injury she doesn’t have a license or take public transport. Fearing that he wouldn’t get paid, the driver told her that unless she showed him a driver’s license or agreed to pay the full fare, she should get out. Milly was so upset that she didn’t get the driver’s name or the taxi number. She simply fled the taxi in a panic. To top it off she was stranded in the rain. After speaking about it with her doctor, Milly was given a letter to show a driver if she’s faced with a similar situation in the future. But the question is why should Milly have to produce a letter from her doctor to ‘prove her entitlement’? Milly isn’t alone in having to deal with people who don’t understand the needs of people with disability.