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When Paul Cudmore’s van was inaccessible late on a winter night, calling a taxi just wasn’t an option.
He had been playing cards with his buddies at the downtown Charlottetown Legion in mid-January.
“We play every Tuesday.”
Sometime after 11 p.m., he decided to call it a night. He exited the legion to discover the side-door of his van was jammed, meaning he couldn't lower the wheelchair accessible ramp.
“It would only open about six inches.”
The retired director of Spinal Cord Injury P.E.I. has been using a power wheelchair for the past several years. A hockey accident back in 1982 had left him with a broken neck.
He got his buddies to come out and lend him a hand. The door wouldn’t budge.
"Well, let’s call a taxi,” one buddy said.
“There are no taxis to call,” Cudmore replied.
Currently, none of Charlottetown’s five taxi companies have a wheelchair accessible vehicle in circulation. The group considered calling Pat and the Elephant, but the transportation service was closed for the night.
“You gotta be kidding me,” his buddy said.
Only Cudmore could drive his van due to its lack of a front seat. In the end, they called a standard taxi and lifted him into it so he could return home, where he had a spare wheelchair.
Then, it took five of his buddies to lift the 500-pound chair through another of his van doors to leave overnight. Cudmore isn’t sure what he would have done had they not been there.
“To me, I got lucky.”
He later had the van towed and had to wait 17 days for the part needed to fix it.
“Everyone should have the same service."
- Paul Cudmore
Cudmore would like to see the city of Charlottetown mandate accessible taxis just like the other major Canadian cities he used to travel to for his work with spinal cord injury.
"It’s not just for me,” he said.
“There is a huge gap in services for people with disabilities.”
He’s been down this road before. In 2014, Cudmore had successfully advocated for an accessible taxi and Yellow Cab delivered. However, that taxi has since left town.
The City of Summerside has at least three accessible taxis that run 24/7. They’re operated by an independent owner who’s partnered with United Taxi.
“But Charlottetown can’t support one?” Cudmore said. “That’s just crazy.”
Osama Abdoh, owner of P.E.I. Online Taxi, said he plans to introduce some into his fleet this fall.
“It’s 100 per cent one of the things I’m very passionate about,” he said.
Accessible taxis aren’t confined to servicing people with disabilities. They can pick up anyone, meaning a company’s customer base shouldn’t be too affected, Cudmore said.
So, he hopes the city will establish a new policy to make them necessary. This may include providing funding to taxi companies to make the service possible, he said.
“Everyone should have the same service.”
He has a meeting set up with Mayor Philip Brown to discuss the issue. Representatives from Charlottetown’s taxi community and from Pat and the Elephant will also be attending, he said.