The battle of wheelchair v buggy on the bus

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19th January 2017
Animated image of bus with passengers

It’s been five long years since wheelchair user Doug Paulley first took his case to court after a mother with a pushchair refused to move out of the designated accessible space on a bus. Yesterday he finally got the answer he was hoping for when the Supreme Court ruled him successful in winning his case. Without going too much into the legalities, the ruling suggested that where a bus driver feels that a refusal to move is unreasonable, they should consider doing more to encourage the person to give up the space.

The level of ‘encouragement’ is down to the drivers discretion and judgement, but could be as simple as repeating the request for the passenger to move or even refusing to continue on their journey for a short period of time, to further pressurise the passenger in question to make space.

Yesterday’s win was of course a great achievement for Doug and a defining moment in helping to tackle the rights of disabled people for sure. Since the judgement, although approved, has not yet been enshrined in law it’s fair to say some are still left wondering whether the judgement provided firstly enough clarity as to what is expected of bus drivers, and secondly, whether in reality anything will change. I suppose the answer to both is ‘only time will tell’.

To be truthful, I can understand both sides of the argument – it can be difficult for parents trying to board the bus with their buggy and baby, especially if the child is already sleeping, and equally for disabled passengers who simply want to get on the bus and go about their journey.

Some people have suggested that the simplest solution to the problem would be to alter the design of buses to perhaps include allocated spaces that are clearly marked for both disabled passengers and passengers with a buggy. This idea is already operating in some parts of the UK, and could be a really useful way to prevent tensions, allowing all commuters to be catered for. However, until such time when a policy like this is adopted and implemented consistently, how effective the new solution will be still remains to be seen.

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