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Our view: Disabled passenger bus rights

11 November 2014

Today the Court of Appeal is to decide whether the rights of wheelchair users take precedence over parents with pushchairs on buses

Liz Sayce, Chief Executive Officer of Disability Rights UK said;

“For decades people using wheelchairs couldn’t even get on the bus – there were steps to get in. So when buses that were physically accessible came in, many people had already given up  – decided they could not travel for work, college or to see family; or relied on cars or taxis, but only if they could afford it. Many people just missed out on life’s opportunities.

This is why it’s really important that bus companies build confidence that now accessibility is real. If the only wheelchair space is taken up by luggage, parents with buggies or busy passengers, the wheelchair user is left at the roadside – and may give up again.

There is a lot that bus companies can do to make the service accessible for everyone: designing buses so there is space for wheelchair users and parents with buggies, making clear where the priority space is for wheelchair users.

But in the end the problem of travelling for wheelchair users is so difficult that it is right that there should be priority space on the buses.

We hope  the court of appeal will re-inforce that important principle.”


The appeal is being heard to clarify this issue following two contradictory court rulings.

In the first case Jane Elliott, who has ME, unsuccessfully sued Arriva because she was unable to get on a bus because a pushchair user refused to move from a designated space for wheelchair users.

Arriva operate a ‘first come, first served’ policy where drivers can ask those with pushchairs to move if a wheelchair user wants to board but do not insist on it. The Judge hearing Jane’s case considered this policy to be a "reasonable adjustment" to make for the benefit of disabled passengers.

In the second case Doug Paulley was awarded £5,500 compensation against First Group after a bus driver refused him access, which led to him missing a train and a family day out.

Initially Jane Elliott sought leave to appeal her decision but was forced to abandon this because of the cost.

First Group are appealing against the decision in favour of Doug Paulley.