Wetherby wheelchair user takes battle for priority over prams on buses to Supreme Court

Doug Paulley from Wetherby. Picture by SWNS.
Doug Paulley from Wetherby. Picture by SWNS.
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A disabled Wetherby man has taken his fight for priority use of wheelchair spaces on buses – even when they are being occupied by babies – to the Supreme Court.

Wheelchair user Doug Paulley, 38, took his argument to the Supreme Court after he was left behind by a FirstGroup bus because a woman with a sleeping baby refused to move out of the designated area for him.

He objected to FirstGroup’s policy of “requesting but not requiring” all non-disabled travellers to vacate spaces needed by wheelchair users.

A judge at an earlier hearing at Leeds County Court ruled the policy breached FirstGroup’s duty under the Equality Act to make “reasonable adjustments” for disabled people and awarded £5,500 in damages.

But the judgement was overturned by the appeal court, prompting Mr Paulley to take the case before seven Supreme Court justices for a final ruling today. Court president Lord Neuberger said judgment would be handed down at a later date.

Before the hearing Mr Paulley said: “We are seeking a clear ruling that bus companies have to do more to make it likely that wheelchair users will be able to travel.”

Robin Allen QC, representing Mr Paulley at the Supreme Court, told the judges that if other passengers “utterly refused” to accept the “proper order of expectation” then the priority for disabled people should be enforced.

Dismissing opposition to enforcement, he said: “It is not impossible legally and it is not that difficult in practice.”

Martin Chamberlain QC, for FirstGroup, said there had been no unlawful discrimination. He argued that forcing passengers occupying the wheelchair space to move if it was needed was “not a reasonable adjustment” under the Equality Act.

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