Wheelchair v Buggy

Bus drivers must pressure passengers to make room for wheelchair users.

Wheelchair user Doug Paulley was refused entry to a FirstGroup bus in 2012 when a mother with a pushchair refused to move from the wheelchair space when asked, claiming that the pushchair could not be folded. Mr Paulley was left at the bus stop. He argued that FirstGroup’s “requesting not requiring policy” was discriminatory.

On 18 January 2017, the Supreme Court found that FirstGroup did not discriminate against Mr Paulley. However, they did rule that drivers must do more to accommodate wheelchair users by considering different ways to persuade non-wheelchair users to vacate the space, without making it a legal duty to move them.

Lord Neuberger, the Supreme Court president, said that if a non-wheelchair user unreasonably refuses the driver’s request to move , the driver should consider further action to pressure the non- wheelchair user to vacate the space, depending on the circumstances.

FirstGroup said the ruling meant drivers would not have to remove customers from their vehicles while Mr Paulley said the decision would make a “major difference.”

Penny Mordaunt, the Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, will discuss with the Department for Transport “clarity, good practice and the transport providers to ensure this ruling becomes a reality.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission described the Supreme Court ruling as “a victory for disabled people’s rights” and “a hugely important decision”. Chairman, David Isaac, said “Public transport is essential for disabled people to live independently, yet bus companies have not made it easy for this to happen.”

“For years, wheelchair users have been deterred from using vital public transport links because they could not be sure they will be able to get on.“

But it does seem that the driver has to decide whether the person being asked to move is being unreasonable in their refusal. If so, the drive must tell them they are required to move and if necessary refuse to move the bus until they shift.

Chris Fry, Mr Paulley’s solicitor said the ruling had fallen short. “The judgement should have gone further – there’s no right as things stand to force someone off a bus. So it goes as far as that, but not that far as yet.”

As one wheelchair user on BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire Programme said “It’s kind of back to square one.”

If you have any questions or if we can help in any way then please contact Paul Neilly on 0141 552 3422 or by email pdn@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

This entry was posted in In The News, Legal by Paul Neilly. Bookmark the permalink.

About Paul Neilly

Paul’s first degree was a BA Honours in Financial Services following which he spent five years working for a large insurance company as a pensions specialist. He then completed his law degree at the University of Strathclyde and Diploma in Legal Practice at the Glasgow Graduate School of Law. Paul subsequently joined Mitchells Roberton as a trainee in July 2006 and qualified as a solicitor in September 2008. Principally concerned with civil litigation, Paul specialises in contract disputes, landlord and tenant issues (commercial and residential), debt recovery, family law, employment law and personal injury claims. He also handles cases involving Adults with Incapacity. Paul regularly appears in the Sheriff Courts throughout Scotland and has experience of appearing before Licensing Boards and instructing matters in the Court of Session. Being a general civil litigator Paul is keenly aware of the need to keep step with developments in the law and legal education. This led Paul to join the committee of TANQ, the Trainee and Newly Qualified Society of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow, in which role Paul currently organises seminars and networking events for its members. Paul is married with a young son and daughter. In his spare time he enjoys cooking, reading and watching sport, particularly following the exploits of the national football and rugby teams, although this is more of a vocation than a source of enjoyment.

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