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EOC’s response to the “Report on Hong Kong Taxi Passengers Survey”

28/12/2017

 

In the “Report on Hong Kong Taxi Passengers Survey” released by the Hong Kong Taxi Council (HKTC) last week, announcing results from the fourth quarter of 2017, more than 70% of the respondents considered that there is an insufficient supply of wheelchair accessible taxis (WATs) in Hong Kong. The HKTC expressed the wish for the Government to provide the Council with subvention or allowance to diversify the types of taxi and increase the supply of WATs. In response to the findings of the survey, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has issued the following statement today (28 December 2017):

The EOC is highly concerned about and committed to promoting accessible taxi services in Hong Kong. The EOC is tasked with implementing the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), which protects persons with disabilities (PWDs) from discrimination, harassment and vilification on the ground of disability. Under sections 26 and 27 of the DDO, it may be unlawful for operators of public transport (including taxis) to discriminate against PWDs by providing facilities for transport or travel which are inaccessible to PWDs.

In May this year, the EOC released the “Study on Taxi Accessibility of Hong Kong”. Conducted by the EOC, the study is a preliminary review of taxi accessibility in Hong Kong with specific objectives, including to review the current situation of taxi accessibility, in relation to Government policies and regulations, and relevant statistics indicating the supply and demand of WATs in Hong Kong; and to make recommendations on improving the accessibility of taxis in Hong Kong, especially premium taxis (later renamed franchised taxis) first proposed by the Government in June 2016 which offer service of a higher quality than ordinary taxis.

In the study, the EOC has made the following recommendations:

  • The study found that there is an insufficient supply of WATs for PWDs, comparing to ordinary taxis, in Hong Kong. While there are 2.47 taxis for each 1,000 residents, there is only 0.25 WAT for each 1,000 persons with restriction in body movement (or 0.011 WAT for each 1,000 residents). Currently, only 0.5% of the taxis in Hong Kong are wheelchair accessible. This figure is significantly lower than other cities with similar populations and income levels.
  • Multiple non-governmental organisations representing PWDs have raised concerns regarding the accessibility of existing taxis and advocated for the introduction of more WATs.
  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was extended to Hong Kong following the adoption of the Convention by China on 31 August 2008. The Convention aims to advance and protect the rights of PWDs and ensure that they can fully and equally enjoy all human rights and basic freedom with respect. According to Article 9 of the CRPD, “States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to PWDs access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation…” Therefore, the EOC recommended that the Government take prompt actions, with reference to overseas experience, to increase the uptake of WATs in Hong Kong. As a first step, the Government should consider requiring all 600 franchised taxis in the trial scheme to be designed as wheelchair accessible. This will increase the proportion of WATs from 0.5% to 3.6%.
  • Given that most of the existing taxis on the road have a high car age and will need to be retired and replaced in the near future, the Government should consider leveraging this opportunity to require all newly purchased taxis to be converted to WATs, similar to the approach adopted by the City of New York.
  • To maintain a stable supply of taxis and not impose substantial burden to the taxi trade, the Government may consider launching financial incentive schemes, similar to the ones in New South Wales, to encourage operators and drivers to opt for WATs over ordinary taxis.
  • As the Government is considering to require operators of franchised taxis to provide training courses to drivers, it is recommended that the courses should also include equal opportunities and disability awareness training to minimise the attitudinal barrier for PWDs to ride a taxi. The Government may also partner with the EOC and the taxi trade to provide similar training to drivers of ordinary taxis.
  • The Government should not limit its accommodation measures to taxis for wheelchair users, but should extend such measures to cover persons with other types of disabilities, in order to create a fully inclusive environment for all PWDs.

Following the release of the study in May, Professor Alfred CHAN Cheung-ming, Chairperson of the EOC, accompanied by various staff members of the EOC, had met with Mrs Ingrid YEUNG HO Poi-yan, the then Commissioner for Transport, to explain the above recommendations. Mrs Yeung welcomed the recommendations and said that some of them would be positively considered. The EOC is working closely with the Transport Department in designing the training courses for new and current taxi drivers organised by the Department, with a view to raising awareness among taxi drivers of their responsibility to pick up passengers with disabilities under the DDO, and to improving their understanding on how to provide PWDs with better services.

Members of the public can access and download the full report of the study from the EOC website (http://www.eoc.org.hk/eoc/upload/ResearchReport/20171218141453791442.pdf). Hard copies will also be distributed to taxi associations, disability groups and other stakeholders.

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For media enquiries, please contact Mr Sam HO at 2106-2187.

Equal Opportunities Commission
28 December 2017

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