A DISABLED rights campaigner has slammed plans for a fully wheelchair accessible taxi fleet in Wyre Forest.
Ex-soldier, David Hughes, also known as Wheelchair Charlie, visited Kidderminster as part of a nationwide tour to create awareness of issues affecting disabled people.
Wyre Forest District Council wants all hackney carriages to be suitable for wheelchairs by 2013 but taxi drivers claim many disabled people cannot easily use the specially designed vehicles.
Mr Hughes, who lives in Blackpool, is visually impaired and suffered spinal injuries in 1990, leaving him unable to walk without crutches and sometimes reliant on a wheelchair.
He told The Shuttle: "By what definition are these taxis wheelchair accessible?
"They don't allow for different types of wheelchair. My wheelchair will fall off the ramp of the latest London-style cab because it doesn't allow for the width of my chair."
Mr Hughes said the council's plans were "unfair" and would make life difficult for many drivers.
He added: "There are taxi drivers with a second part-time job just to pay for a new car they have been forced to buy.
"I don't like the idea of disabled people being used to the detriment of decent, hard working people who are trying to earn a living in difficult economic times."
Mr Hughes only intended to do a 700-mile journey in 20 days when he started touring in June, 2006 but, such was the interest in his trek, he continued and has clocked up more than 100,000 miles.
During his tour, he has used wheelchairs and assimilation equipment to let people "see what it's like to be disabled" and "realise the difficulty" of using some wheelchair accessible taxis.
Wyre Forest Taxi Drivers Association is calling for new licence holders to be forced to buy wheelchair accessible vehicles, while it says existing licence holders should be allowed to continue running saloon cars.
Mr Hughes added he thought the association was "doing what's right for the public".
Conservative councillor, Anne Hingley, cabinet member for housing, health and rural affairs, said the council had taken "brave steps to improve the quality of the taxi service in Wyre Forest, including the accessibility" and she was "proud of the progress" made.
The Shuttle, 4th May 2009