By Simon Sansome
While Uber still has some legs in London and is still running around giving people lifts around the capital it is also important to highlight that in 2016 UBER launched UberACCESS a service designed for people with disabilities. Being a disabled journalist, I wanted to see what the difference was between UberACCESS and London Black Cabs. To research this issue, me and my wife travelled to London to took a number of journeys in both UberACCESS and London Black Cabs to compare the difference.
To make the experience fair I stayed in my mobility scooter the whole time to make sure the service we needed met expectation.
First of all, we tried UberACCESS, I have used UBER many times in London before and before my Go-Go Sport mobility scooter had to be dismantled into five pieces with the assistance of the driver and usually my wife or a carer. We also had to order UBER XL to make sure it fitted in the boot of the car which is more expensive. What was good that if there was a group of us UBER XL is usually a seven-seat car and so a group of us could get in the same vehicle, with my scooter.
The positives about UberACCESS is that you know you are ordering a wheelchair accessible vehicle. The driver already knows you need assistance. Not all UBER drivers in my experience are as helpful as UberACCESS drivers as many of them don’t like the surprise of having to take a scooter apart. UberACCESS is great if there is just the two of you, this changes if you’re a family and need to transport for yourself, kids and maybe a pushchair. In the number of UberACCESS rides the scooter took up most of the room as you would expect, leaving just two other seats, the front passengers seat and one rear seat, there was also no room for baggage and so if heading to a hotel, airport UberACCESS would not suit your needs.
London Black Cabs on the other hand had more room and while I stayed seated in my mobility scooter three people could seat comfortably in a black cab and still have access to the black cabs boot for storage. It should be noted that UberACCESS vehicles change from driver to driver and so there may be larger UberACCESS vehicles, you do get to see which vehicles are coming to pick you up so it does give you time to cancel, if you know the vehicle is not suitable for your needs. But with a black cab you know what you are going to get.
During this three-day experiment, there were times when the UberACCESS service was not available and waiting times were long. In central London, I sat on a corner for a few minutes and flagged down a black cab. We also noticed that there was very little price difference in getting an UberACCESS and a black cab as UberACCESS had an extra charge of £2.50 for it being UberACCESS which to me seems unfair as its not my fault I am disabled and the accessible cars still hold the same number of people as regular taxies.
UberACCESS is becoming more and more successful and it great to see Uber providing more accessible vehicles. Uber have recently announced that they extend to double the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles across eight UK cities, which are London, Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Newcastle. This is where I believe UberACCESS will shine.
Having visited most of these cities I am fully aware how difficult it is to get an accessible vehicle. In London, you can stand around for a few minutes and a back cab will turn up but other smaller cities black cabs are harder to come making UberACCESS a more favourable option for people with disabilities. I know when I visit Birmingham and Manchester next I will be using UberACCESS, but when in London for me its still the classic black cab that won me over.