Just 5 taxis for 60,000 wheelchair passengers

In a city where more than 60,000 residents use wheelchairs, there are only five taxis with wheelchair access, despite government pledges to increase facilities.  

Shanghai's disabled residents are now urging the authorities to keep their promise and revive the service.
In 2008, local authorities pledged more vehicle hire services for disabled people. 

A fleet of fifty minibuses, named "Sunshine Taxis" was established, the first time Shanghai offered special taxi vehicles meeting the need of passengers in wheelchairs. 

These were fitted with wheelchair lifts and had seats removed to increase space.

However, the number of Sunshine Taxis in operation is now down to five, after the company cut back numbers to reduce losses, taxi industry insiders revealed. 

"There is now a serious shortage of wheelchair-friendly taxis in the city," Xu Fengjian, vice chairman of Shanghai Disabled Persons Federation, said yesterday. 

Xu has proposed local transport authorities address the situation, after completing an investigation as a member of the local government's political advisory body. 

"The government needs to keep its promise to help the disabled," Xu said. 

The sunshine fleet operates through telephone bookings. However, Chen Guoqiang, a disabled local man, said he had never succeeded in making a booking. "I last tried to book one in December, but the Sunshine Taxi hotline said they didn't have any cars available," Chen said. 

Industry insiders said government subsidies to the Dazhong Taxi Co, operator of the service, didn't materialize, and many vehicles reverted to standard use.

"To encourage the company, the government must grant incentives," Xu said. 

There are around 272,000 people with physical disabilities in Shanghai.