There needs to be more wheelchair-friendly taxis in Ipswich town centre, says father

Lee and Michelle Markwell with son Tommy-Lee.

Lee and Michelle Markwell with son Tommy-Lee.

The father of a young boy who relies on the use of a wheelchair is calling for improved transport for disabled people in Ipswich.

Lee Markwell and his wife Michelle do not drive so they depend on public transport to take their three-year-old son Tommy-Lee, who suffers from dystonic cerebral palsy, to hospital appointments.

But Mr Markwell, 43, claims taxi companies in Ipswich town centre rarely have a wheelchair-friendly vehicle available when he requests one, which means the family have to take their son on a bus.

“The problem that we have is we don’t think the taxi ranks around Ipswich are giving enough support for people such as my little boy,” said Mr Markwell, of Mottram Close, in Pinewood.

“Tommy can’t sit up, he can’t stand up, he can’t do anything. It can be a problem getting Tommy to and from hospital on public transport, it’s a lot easier for us to take Tommy in a taxi.

“Buses are not suitable – he has had seizures on the bus and we have to get the suction out and clear his airway.

“It’s distressing for other passengers on the bus and it worries them and it certainly worries us as well.

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“I just want more support, I’m not just speaking for my family, but for other people as well. There’s always someone worse off then my little boy and something has to be done – enough is enough.”

An Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) spokesman said the authority had been contacted by a number of other people sharing similar concerns.

To address this, the council has launched a new facility on its website where people can easily request a wheelchair-friendly taxi.

The spokesman said: “We are aware there have been some issues and in an attempt to resolve them we have launched a new online information service in order to help people like Mr Markwell.

“We advise that they go on to our website and key in ‘taxi and private hire’ in the search bar and they will come up with a list of names and numbers of taxi drivers who they can ring directly and they are all wheelchair -accessible.”

IBC now requires that all Hackney Carriage taxis, which operate from ranks and can be hailed down in the street, have wheelchair provision in their vehicles.

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