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Open letter to providers of bus transport & disabled users.

Blog by Carolyn Lucas. This blog and its content reflect the views of the author only.

I attended both the recent demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice and some of the Appeal Hearing of the recent court case covering wheelchair/ scooter & pushchair access to buses. It has just been announced that the Appeal was lost & there is no legal obligation to insist on the rights of disabled passengers to use the designated wheelchair space over that of other passengers, in particular childrens’ pushchairs.

After at least ten years battling to receive parity with other bus users, the wheelchair campaign achieved its goal of designated wheelchair spaces on public transport. The size of wheelchairs & scooters is regulated. Wheelchairs over a certain size are not permitted in wheelchair spaces.

On old style buses until fairly recently there was no provision for pushchairs apart from a small space under the stairs for luggage, pushchairs, large parcels etc. Parents could only take pushchairs on public transport if they were small, light & foldable. Children were carried.

Until, that is, people with disabilities demanded a space for their wheelchairs on public transport. This was part of a wider campaign to gain equality of access to all parts of public life, which culminated in the Disability Discrimination Act.

What has now happened? Pushchairs have reached epic proportions, some of them prams, some don’t fold & there is an assumption by many parents that pushchair spaces should be provided at the expense of wheelchair users, for whom the spaces were designed. As far as I am aware, the DDA provision was not intended to include provision for pushchairs.

Bus drivers should not be expected to arbitrate on who has priority to use the wheelchair space. The rules should be made clear by signage on the lines of ‘Priority for wheelchair users in this space. Pushchairs must be folded’.

To resolve this situation I suggest that:

  1. Pushchair sizes for use on bus transport should be limited, as are scooter sizes on TFL buses ie a maximum size stipulated & foldable
  2. Pushchairs must be folded & the child carried if the wheelchair space is required.
  3. Further discussion should take place with transport companies over this issue who need to clarify the situation by publicity & clear signage.

It is quite wrong that the hardwon battle for provision of wheelchair spaces on public transport by disabled people should be appropriated by another group. Parents should conduct their own campaign for additional pushchair space. There are associations of parents more than capable of doing so.

I fail to see why, in this country, there should be culture of, at best, disinterest &, at worst, a callous disregard for the welfare of disabled people. I am a regular visitor to America where there is a lot more respect for & acceptance of the rights of disabled people. To be having this kind of debate in the US after the passing of disability legislation would be unthinkable. Not so, it seems, in the UK.

Carolyn Lucas