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Six months on from Doug Paulley’s Supreme Court victory – has anything changed for Disabled and older bus users?

Added: 14 August 2017 | Updated: 14 August 2017

On the 10th August, during our Bus Day of Action, we were very pleased to present Doug Paulley with the Campaign Success Award 2017. We were joined by Disabled and older people from across the city to test London’s buses and investigate what the judgement has actually meant to their daily reality.

In January 2017 Doug Paulley won his arduous five year legal battle against FirstGroup over the wheelchair priority space. The Landmark Supreme Court ruling found that bus companies must do more to ensure that wheelchair users can access the wheelchair space in buses. Doug Paulley brought his case after he was refused entry to a FirstGroup bus in 2012 when another passenger with a pushchair refused to make space for him in the wheelchair priority area.

The judgement is a victory for all Disability rights campaigners everywhere, and none of it would have been possible without Doug Paulley’s hard work and dedication throughout this arduous five year battle.


The situation six months after the judgement

Six months on from the judgement there have been some slow improvements but many wheelchair and mobility scooter users are still struggling to access buses. Sadly being refused access to buses is still a daily occurrence for many Disabled and older Londoners –Transport for All (TfA) still hear many shocking cases of wheelchair users being denied access to the bus. Wheelchair user Gwynneth Pedler said:

“I have seen some positive changes since the judgement but sadly this isn’t the case on every journey – there’s still a long way to go until the problem is solved.

“It’s so hard to have to brace yourself for an argument every single time you catch the bus.”


New procedures for bus drivers

Since the judgement Transport for London (TfL) has made a number of policy changes to help ensure that wheelchair users can access the bus. These have included introducing new iBus voice announcements and updating driver training. TfA has said TfL need to go further, by introducing a policy where bus drivers refuse to move the bus for a certain amount of time, unless the wheelchair priority space is vacated. As well as strengthening their policies on wheelchair priority TfA want to see bus companies introduce larger wheelchair spaces and separate buggy spaces to ensure that Disabled people can travel with confidence. Catherine Smith, Transport for All said

“We’re calling on the Mayor and TfL to stop bringing Disabled and older people into conflict with other passengers and make sure London’s buses have space for everyone”

During our Bus Day of Action, TfL also announced working on a leaflet explaining new wheelchair priority procedures to bus drivers. The information contained in it will replace the information from the Big Red Book. TfA has asked to be consulted on the content.


Doug Paulley’s case is not an isolated one. Last year, Transport for All published the stories of 12 disabled and older Londoners who struggle to access buses every day – Even here in London, where TfL’s official policy supports wheelchair priority, being left at the bus stop when a wheelchair space is occupied is a regular occurrence. As TfA Chair, Alan Benson said:
“This isn’t just about not being able to get on the bus when you need to. How can bus companies expect Disabled and older people to travel with confidence when every time we board the bus we face a lottery of having to fight for our simple right to be there? In 2017 it should not be this difficult and stressful for people to travel around our city”

Doug Paulley concluded:

“Many bus companies are still treating Disabled and older people with contempt and denying them their fundamental right to travel, 25 years after Disabled people chained themselves to buses to fight for the wheelchair space it is still frequently abused by others. It’s disgraceful, illegal and has got to stop.“