Bus companies will not be legally required to compel parents to move their children’s buggies to make way for wheelchair users, following a judgement at the Court of Appeal today.
The “proper remedy” for wheelchair users to get improvements in such cases is to ask Parliament, three judges ruled.
First Bus Group had asked the judges to give a ruling following a woman's refusal to move a pushchair with a sleeping baby from a bay on a bus to Leeds in 2012, in order to allow wheelchair user Doug Paulley to board.
The judges heard that the bus operator has a policy of “requesting but not requiring” non-disabled travellers to vacate the space if it is needed by a wheelchair user.
A judge at Leeds County Court had previously ruled that the policy was discriminatory and in breach of a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.
Mr Paulley, from Wetherby, West Yorkshire, won £5,500 in damages against First Group, after Recorder Paul Isaacs declared the company should have taken measures to ensure he was not at a disadvantage when he tried to get on the bus.
Martin Chamberlain QC, for First Group, told the appeal court that there was a long-running problem on public transport that had produced conflicting court decisions and bus operators were now seeking legal clarity.
On Twitter, there were mixed responses to the ruling. Many Twitter users expressed their disappointment at the outcome:
The ruling on disabled spaces on buses/trains seems to equate the faff of a pram with the hard fact of a wheelchair.; Shelagh Fogarty (@ShelaghFogarty) December 8, 2014
Can't believe the attitude of the mother who wouldn't move her buggy to allow wheelchair user to get on bus. Another example of pushy mums?; Andy Hemsted (@andyhemsted) December 8, 2014
Can all members of parliament and judges get in a wheelchair and try to get on a train or bus and see for themselves just how difficult...; Becky Whitworth (@bexwhitworth) December 8, 2014
However, others Twitter users were more sympathetic towards the ruling:
Isn't the most tragic thing about the First Bus ruling that both wheelchair-users and buggy-users are treated appallingly by bus companies?; Paul Bernal (@PaulbernalUK) December 8, 2014
Mr Paulley's defence of the Isaacs decision is being funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. His lawyers have now applied to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Case study: Anna Alston, 31, Camden
"I have cerebral palsy and have always used a wheelchair. It was impossible to use the buses in London until I was 16 because there were no wheelchair spaces. It felt like a breakthrough when they were introduced.
"But there have been many occasions when I haven’t been able to get on a bus because of buggies taking up the space. It is frustrating.
"People with buggies don’t tend to move for you and I don’t like to ask them to because it makes me feel vulnerable; I don’t know how they’ll react. Sometimes they get angry and say it is their right to stay there, which is now true thanks to this ruling.
"Disabled people tried for years to get space on the bus. It feels very unfair."Reuse content