I read today that the government is going to give “enhanced rights” to disabled people when travelling on buses.
Last year Doug Paulley won a court case which meant that drivers had to ask passengers to vacate the wheelchair space on buses if it is needed by a wheelchair user.
The supreme court unanimously ruled it was not enough for drivers to “simply request” a non-wheelchair user to vacate the space without taking any further steps, and that they must consider whether it was reasonable to “pressurise” reluctant passengers to move.
The government set up a group to look into the impacts of this ruling and the group recently released a report with a number of recommendations.
The group said that bus drivers “need to play an active role in ensuring that the wheelchair space is made available for passengers in wheelchairs, which includes requiring other passengers to move where necessary.”
The government has agreed with the group that “the wheelchair space should be available to those that need it.”
The government said “In accepting the group’s recommendations in principle we will begin a process of further engagement to understand the specific experiences of a range of stakeholders affected by the wheelchair space issue, including wheelchair users, parents travelling with young children, and bus drivers – with a view to bringing forward a package of measures in 2018, informed by the group’s recommendations and our further consideration, to support access to the wheelchair space.”
It’s good news that the government will be giving further rights to disabled bus passengers. However, bus drivers and the general public need to be made aware of this law.
There have been instances where able-bodied passengers have argued with wheelchair users about vacating the wheelchair space. It seems that some members of the general public are not aware that wheelchair users have a right to use the space, even if it is occupied. Or maybe some just don’t care?
There needs to be more training and awareness given to bus drivers to make sure that they know what is expected of them.
It’s not acceptable to refuse to allow a wheelchair user to board the bus.
Able-bodied people can sit anywhere they like on a bus. Wheelchair users on the other hand can only sit in the one wheelchair space provided. So it must be kept free for the people that really need it.
Pushchairs can be folded up and babies can be held on their parent’s lap. Wheelchair users do not have this luxury.
Hopefully the measures that the government pass sometime this year will clarify the law for drivers, the public, and disabled people. It would be nice if there were no more instances of discrimination against disabled people on public transport. But I guess we will have to wait and see what happens.