Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wheelchair taxi owners seek funding help

From the CBC News Online:

The drivers of Halifax's two wheelchair-accessible taxis say a provincial subsidy to buy new vehicles won't get them far.

The Nova Scotia government has offered the two drivers $22,500 each to replace their aging vehicles.

Mark Weston said he's grateful, but retrofitting a van properly costs anywhere from $45,000 to $65,000.

"I've been mulling it over in my mind and I like to provide the service and I like to help people out, but from a financial perspective and a business perspective, it doesn't really make a lot of sense," he said.

Weston's vehicle needs a lot of work. It has more than 400,000 kilometres on it.

"I've got to stuff this rag in here and make sure that it's just so, so it doesn't rattle around. And that's not working," he said.

Weston said he's not willing to spend more than he would on a regular vehicle since the fares are the same.

Both he and fellow Casino driver Ben Bella plan to seek out tens of thousands of dollars in corporate or private donations to bridge the funding gap.

Erin MacPhee hopes someone comes through with the money. She uses the accessible taxis for recreational trips and to get to medical appointments in her electric wheelchair.

"It's extremely important for my life. It's my only way to get downtown to my doctor's appointments when I need to go," she said.

"My chair itself weighs close to 400 pounds and it's not collapsible. So there's a lot of us who do have the power chairs and we need this service to keep our independence."

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