Monday, 8 December 2014

Wheels on the bus

The Court of Appeal has overturned a court ruling which said that First Bus's policy of not requiring passengers to make way for wheelchairs in designated bays was unlawful.
Specifically Doug Paulley had taken the case to court after he was denied access when a mother refused to wake her sleeping baby and fold her buggy to allow him to board.

As seen by reading the BBC comments, feelings run high on this issue and there are many misunderstandings and some quite frankly silly questions.

  • It is disgraceful that a paying passenger be forcibly removed from a bus for a wheelchair user.
No one was saying this should happen. If the bus is full, then the bus is full. However, if the wheelchair bay is taken by a buggy, then this should be folded up to allow the wheelchair user to board.
The original ruling said that the company should require parents to do so. The new ruling says that parents can choose whether or not to comply with a request, potentially leaving wheelchair users behind even though there is room on the bus.

  • Babies are just as disabled as wheelchair users and have just as much right to the bay.

Babies are not (generally) disabled and with the assistance of their parent, have far more options than disabled people. Disabled people cannot usually get out, fold their wheelchair and go and find a vacant seat. Parents and their babies do have this option. I would however hope that someone might help them hold bags/baby/fold buggy and give them a seat if there is standing room only.
The exception to this is for disabled children/babies who cannot leave their buggies.
It is worth noting that parents used to use buses long before there were disabled bays. These are a necessity for wheelchair users as opposed to a useful convenience for parents.

  • It is wrong to expect a mother to stand with the baby in her arms just so a wheelchair can come on board.
There is no reason for this to be the only possible outcome. If there is only standing room available one would hope that other passengers would do the right thing and offer the mother their seat.

  • And what if another wheelchair had been on board? Will you sue every time you can't get on board the bus?
No, of course not. If the wheelchair space is taken by another wheelchair, then tough luck. The bus is "full". In this case, just as for non disabled passengers, you wait for the next bus. No one has ever suggested otherwise.
This isn't simply about the space being taken and having to wait. This is about the space being taken by a non disabled person who *could* move out of the way but doesn't want to.

  • Disabled people want equality but don't like being treated equally! 
Disabled people want the equal opportunity to travel. If the bus is full then they will catch the next one like anyone else. But this is not what we are talking about here. There IS room for the wheelchair user. They are being prevented from boarding because a passenger won't move out of the way.
What would a non disabled person do if someone stood in the doorway and refused to get out of the way?!

  • This is no big deal. Disabled people can just catch the next bus!
The problem with this argument is that it is circular and keeps happening. The next bus often says exactly the same thing! Where I live I can often expect to wait for 3 or 4 buses before I am allowed on board.
The end result of this ruling means that although the buses are physically accessible, in practise they are not as I STILL cannot get onboard.

  • It doesn't matter as I never see wheelchair users on buses anyway!
Well quite. Perhaps now you see why. I don't use buses because of this very issue.

  • This should never have gone to court. It was just some militant guy trying to get some money.
I don't know the claimant and cannot comment on his motives. What I do know is that many disabled people, myself included, were waiting for the outcome of this ruling with high hopes. In my case I will effectively continue to be barred from using buses in my area.

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