Thursday 19 January 2017

Victory For People With Disabilities In 'Wheelchair V Buggy' case

supreme court

Disability campaigners have welcomed a Supreme Court ruling that bus drivers may have to do more to accommodate wheelchair users.

The case was brought by Doug Paulley, who said he was "absolutely delighted" after "a long fight" and that the judgment marked "a significant cultural change".

Mr Paulley argued against FirstGroup's policy of "requesting but not requiring" non-disabled passengers, including those with buggies, to vacate a space if it is needed by a wheelchair user.

The Supreme Court's president, Lord Neuberger, said the policy of simply "requesting" was unjustified.

He said if a bus driver believes a person's refusal to give up a space is unreasonable they should consider a further step to pressurise the traveller, depending on circumstances.

Those steps could, in appropriate cases, include "a refusal to drive on".

Disability groups have been battling to get priority use for wheelchair users on buses and the latest ruling has been called a "partial victory".

Mr Paulley, from Wetherby, West Yorkshire, brought legal action after he tried unsuccessfully to board a FirstGroup bus which had a sign saying: "Please give up this space if needed for a wheelchair user."

The driver asked a woman with a sleeping baby in a pushchair to move out of the designated area - but she refused, saying the buggy would not fold and Mr Paulley was left at the bus stop.

A judge at Leeds County Court then ruled the policy breached FirstGroup's duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make "reasonable adjustments" for disabled people.

Recorder Paul Isaacs said the policy should have "required" the woman to move and the wheelchair user's right to priority should have been enforced.

But the judgment was overturned by the Court of Appeal, which ruled such a policy would not strike a fair balance between the needs of wheelchair users and the needs of other passengers who might be vulnerable.

The policy would also be liable to give rise to confrontation and delayed journeys.

Mr Paulley, in his late 30s, then continued his fight before seven justices at the UK's highest court.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which supported Mr Paulley. said the Supreme Court decision was "a victory for disabled people's rights".

And it said it was "a hugely important decision, which has helped clarify the current state of the law, and will give confidence to thousands of disabled people in Britain to use public transport".



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