Skip To Navigation Skip To Content
Colour mode:
Home > News > Doug Paulley vs First Bus – 12 disabled and older Londoners share their story for their right to ride on buses
This article is old and may be out of date

Doug Paulley vs First Bus – 12 disabled and older Londoners share their story for their right to ride on buses

Transport for All

On Wednesday 15th June, the Supreme Court looked at a case which could have wide implications for wheelchair...

On Wednesday 15th June, the Supreme Court looked at a case which could have wide implications for wheelchair and mobility scooter users who want to travel by bus in the UK. Today many disabled and older Londoners, especially those using a wheelchair or mobility scooter, are still denied the right to travel on buses like everyone else. Transport for All (TfA) published the stories of 12 disabled and older Londoners who struggle to access buses every day.

You may have heard about Doug Paulley, a wheelchair user from Yorkshire who successfully sued First Bus Group in 2013 after he had been denied access to one of their buses. The reason he was denied access was that a bus driver did not enforce priority in the wheelchair space and a buggy owner refused to make room for him. However this decision was overturned by the Appeal Court in November 2014. The Supreme Court is reconsidering the case. Judgment is reserved to a later date.

Transport for All has supported Doug from the beginning. If the original verdict in Doug Paulley’s favour is upheld by the Supreme Court, then the requirement in law to give a wheelchair users and then also in effect mobility scooter user access to the wheelchair space will be absolutely undeniable, and all bus companies will have to enforce it.


Daily discrimination

Doug Paulley’s case is not an isolated one. Every day, hundreds of disabled and older Londoners who use a wheelchair or a mobility scooter are struggling to access buses, just because the wheelchair priority space is already occupied. This is on top of other access issues such as broken ramps and bus drivers often not kneeling the bus or driving up the kerb.

Twelve disabled and older Londoners who use a wheelchair or mobility scooter have shared their stories with us. You can read their full story by clicking here.

This situation has a huge impact on the life of disabled and older Londoners. The result is that our schedules are messed up because we miss out on the freedom of travel enjoyed by others. 

“I often have to wait for several buses. Add in broken ramps and I am lucky to get on a bus maybe one in five times” – Anne Novis MBE (TfA Member) – Lewisham


“In each case, I ended up being late arriving at my meeting. Very embarrassing”. – Fiona Carey, wheelchair user often travelling in London.


Wheelchair and mobility scooter often have to argue with passengers and bus drivers in order to be able to access buses. This conflict makes those journeys very stressful. 

“I cannot be sure that I will be able to board a bus when it comes along. It makes bus travel both stressful and upsetting” – Christopher Stapleton (TfA Member) – Wandsworth


“Every time I try to board a bus, I feel stressed because I have to be ready for an argument with the driver and/or other passengers”. – Jeff Harvey (TfA Trustee) – Camden


“Each time I had a problem on buses I used to complain to TfL, but it didn’t seem to change anything and it happens so often I don’t bother any more”. – Alan Benson (TfA Trustee) – Richmond upon Thames


A great deal needs to change before buses are truly accessible, and before wheelchair users can use them without stress and distress. Transport for All continues to campaign for full transport accessibility in London and our Helpline receives many calls each week from people who have had problems accessing buses; problems with ramps, buggies and drivers. There are also many reports on Twitter about this. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg. 


Our #RightToRide

It is vital that wheelchair and mobility scooter users get access to the wheelchair priority space on buses. Wheelchair and mobility scooter users are heavily dependent on buses to get around London because so few Tube stations have step-free access. 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. 

We believe that bus companies should enforce wheelchair priority in the wheelchair bay, offering training to drivers; clear signage in the wheelchair bay and audio announcements to remind passengers and passengers that they must not prevent disabled people from boarding. Wheelchair spaces on buses were introduced after a long period of campaigning by disability rights campaigners and by organisations including Transport for All. 

Youcef Bey-Zekkoub, a wheelchair user from Lambeth and father of 3 children says: “Babies can be carried, children can walk, pushchairs can be folded but wheelchair users have no other option. Thus, pushchairs should be folded if the wheelchair space is needed by a wheelchair user because it is the only safe place for us to travel on the bus.”



Why not design a bus where all passengers can use the space?

It is important to understand that this is not simply a fight against buggy users. Many disabled and older people are also parents or understand that babies and small kids also need to travel in the bus. We need to see better bus design that means more space allocated in the wheelchair bay – with wheelchairs and mobility scooters given priority – but other passengers also able to travel as well. Transport for All would like to work with bus companies and with buggy manufacturers to help find solutions which will allow everyone to use buses without difficulty or conflict. These solutions could include better bus ramps; and simpler, smaller buggies which are better suited to bus travel, where the need to fold the buggy at short notice can often arise. TfL has also announced that they are refreshing their campaign “Buggy users, please make space for wheelchair users”. 


Brighton & Hove Bus and Lothian Buses have vehicles with a dedicated wheelchair and buggy space to avoid conflict. TfA would like to see such bus design being developed in London. 

“The issue has actually never really been about a parent’s willingness to move the buggy, it is about government’s failure years ago to insist that buses should have two spaces, as many do, one clearly designated a wheelchair space, the other a buggy space”. Mark Wilson


There are some great ideas out there developed by other companies, which could really help disabled and older people in London to travel with freedom and independence. During one of our previous Pan London Mobility Forums, Brighton & Hove Bus & Coach Company & Metrobus impressed our audience with their wheelchair taxi guarantee scheme. This is offered in the case a buggy user or other passengers refusing to clear the space for wheelchair users. 

“It is a shame that empathy is not shown to wheelchair users, after all we are just trying to live our lives to the best of our ability” – Janet Grace – Islington


Let’s make sure that all disabled and older Londoners can access buses like everyone else. You can do so by:


We will continue to fight until all disabled people can travel with the same freedom and independence as everyone else

A man standing in front of a painted brick wall smiling at the camera. He is holding a cane and is wearing glasses, a black jacket and a grey t-shirt. A man standing in front of a painted brick wall smiling at the camera. He is holding a cane and is wearing glasses, a black jacket and a grey t-shirt.

Support us

We can't do this without your support. Take action, give what you can, or sign up as a member - and join our movement of disabled people fighting for a better future.