Taxi drivers who refuse to pick up customers in wheelchairs could be sent on disability awareness courses under government proposals to make every black cab accessible.
Only Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh have fleets of entirely wheelchair accessible taxis.
Ministers have drawn up plans to make it easier for people with disabilities to hail a cab, amid claims drivers are refusing to stop because they fear they will not be covered by insurance, or could be landed with a parking fine as they help passengers into the vehicle.
But the Government is concerned heavy-handed legislation could encourage black cab drivers to quit, or move to licensed hire vehicles.
They are asking whether anti-discrimination legislation should be enforced with fines – or requiring offenders to attend awareness courses.
The inititaive was welcomed by Birmingham MP Richard Burden (Lab Northfield). He said: “It is important all forms of transport are as accessible as possible, and that includes taxis. But it is also important to recognise this is not a simple issue, and I think this is what the consultation does. I hope people affected by these issues will respond, including passengers, and the drivers and taxi firms.”
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 gives the transport secretary the power to order every taxi can be used by people with disabilities, with offenders facing a criminal conviction and £1,000 fine.
However, it has never been put into force, partly because of the enormous cost. A vehicle designed for wheelchair-users can cost between £20,000 and £30,000, while a second-hand private hire vehicle costs £6,000-£8,000.