As many of you will know, we have been supporting Doug Paulley, who was victorious in bringing his case on wheelchair priority to the UK Supreme Court. This was after he was denied access to one of First Bus Group’s buses because a bus driver didn’t enforce priority in the wheelchair space and a buggy owner refused to make room for him.
The court decided in favour of Doug, however their judgment does not go far enough. It basically reminded bus drivers they had the power to ask people to vacate the wheelchair priority area but acknowledged they did not have the power to act if a passenger refused.
We need your support
TfA and Doug Paulley are now calling on Parliament to clarify and strengthen the law around wheelchair priority.
The Bus Services Bill, which will legislate for the bus franchising process outside London, is going through Parliament. This offers a rare opportunity to change the law around wheelchair priority. Doug has launched a petition, calling on the Government to take action on wheelchair priority, please sign today to ensure that the voices of Disabled and older people are heard by Parliament.
Situation in London
The decision has had some positive impact. A few weeks ago, Transport for London (TfL) distributed a poster around bus garages, stations, their customer service centre and the driver intranet outlining the Supreme Court’s recommendation. The poster (pictured below) outlines the steps bus drivers must take to promote wheelchair priority.The poster says: “Important message after the ruling by the Supreme Court on the wheelchair priority space – Following the ruling by the Supreme Court asking someone to move out of the wheelchair priority area is not enough if they initially refuse. If buggy users or other customers refuse to move or share, you must explain they are required to make space for a wheelchair user.
You must do your best to encourage others to make space for the wheelchair user. If you made several attempts but cannot make space, tell the wheelchair user plus contact your controller to tell them exactly what you did and to arrange for the driver of the next bus to be made aware. Further guidance will be issued in the next few weeks.“
This is a step forward but we think that TfL could have gone further (e.g. ask bus drivers to refuse to move if a passengers do not vacate the wheelchair priority space).
Transport for London told us that the Bus driver training was also immediately updated in light of the judgement. The drivers are now being briefed on the ruling and the actions they must take to ensure that they enforce wheelchair priority and practice this in a role play section of the training.
Some wheelchair and mobility scooter users are still struggling to access buses
A number of our members have reported that their situation has improved since the judgement but we still hear regularly of wheelchair and mobility scooter users being denied access to bus. Some examples have hit the headlines recently.
- One of these includes Kirsty Shepherd, who was not only refused access to an Arriva bus in Yorkshire but also suffered verbal abuse from her fellow passengers.
- Another case was that of Nicki Price from Chelmsford who was denied access to a bus when she was travelling to collect her children from school.