Pledge to improve bus access for wheelchair users following Supreme Court ruling

Doug Paulley. PIC: PADoug Paulley. PIC: PA
Doug Paulley. PIC: PA
The Government has pledged to improve bus access for wheelchair users following a Supreme Court ruling.

New measures to ensure wheelchair users can travel in spaces set aside for them on buses will be introduced, the Department for Transport said.

The announcement comes after disability activist Doug Paulley won a case in the Supreme Court in January last year, which ruled that drivers must do more to ensure wheelchair users are given priority spaces on buses.

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The case was referred to as the “wheelchair v buggy” dispute because Mr Paulley, from Wetherby, took legal action after a mother with a sleeping baby in a pushchair that would not fold refused to move when requested by the driver of a FirstGroup bus to Leeds in February 2012.

Mr Paulley was left unable to board.

Transport minister Nusrat Ghani said: “Passengers with disabilities must have the same opportunities to travel as other members of society, and it is essential that the services they rely on are accessible and work for them.

“Where people live, shop, go out or park their car should not be determined by their disability.

“Accessible transport networks are vital if we are to support those with disabilities to live independent lives and fulfil their potential.”

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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 they must consider whether it is reasonable to “pressurise” reluctant passengers to move.

The DfT said it has engaged with bus drivers, disabled people and members of the public travelling with young children to ensure its plans are “informed by those most affected by them”.

Keith Richards, chairman of the Disabled Persons’ Transport Advisory Committee, said: “Fighting for what is essential space should not be part of the day-to-day experience wheelchair users have when using buses.

“We hope the department will maintain its pace into the implementation phase, to ensure that wheelchair users no longer face these challenges or have to fight for facilities provided for them in law.

“Without a greater degree of certainty over the use of the space, confidence in using public transport will be difficult to achieve.”