Lawyers at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) have secured a remarkable victory after a five-year battle to have wheelchair accessible taxis live up to their name.
The victory came today (30 March) as PIAC and their client, wheel chair-bound Greg Killeen, announced the withdrawal of their Federal Court disability discrimination claim because of a recent change in Transport NSW rules which no longer breach national disability standards.
"Today is a victory for all people with a disability who use wheelchairs and wheelchair accessible taxis," said Killeen outside the Federal Court this morning.
Acting on behalf of Killeen, PIAC had filed a disability discrimination complaint against Transport NSW and two large taxi companies.
The complaint alleged that Transport NSW and the taxi companies had breached national disability standards because many supposedly wheelchair accessible taxis were, in reality, too small to be used.
PIAC solicitor Gemma Namey said new rules that come into effect from 1 October 2011 mean that only genuinely accessible taxis will be licensed for wheelchair passengers.
"Under previous guidelines, some wheelchair accessible taxis were unsafe because doors failed to close properly and access ramps intruded into the space where passengers were supposed to sit," she said.
"The new rules resolve the problem. Transport NSW will increase the minimum amount of useable space within all new wheelchair accessible taxis. This is a welcome development. It means wheelchair users can feel confident that wheelchair accessible taxis are safe and useable."
And for Killeen, the outcome is exactly what he had hoped for.
"I have not sought any financial compensation," he said.
"The case was simply a matter of justice. All I wanted was for wheelchair accessible taxis to be just that - wheelchair accessible."