Disabled Campaigner Supreme Court 'Victory'

18 January 2017, 12:57

First Bus

A disabled campaigner from West Yorkshire has claimed "an important victory'' in his legal battle for wheelchair users to have priority use for wheelchair spaces on buses.

A disabled campaigner from West Yorkshire has claimed "an important victory'' in his legal battle for wheelchair users to have priority use for wheelchair spaces on buses.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled it was not enough for drivers to "simply request'' a non-wheelchair user to vacate the space without taking any further steps.

The highest court in the land ruled, if a refusal to move is unreasonable, the driver must consider taking further steps to "pressurise'' the reluctant passenger to leave the space, "depending on the circumstances''.

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

Mr Paulley, from Wetherby, West Yorkshire, was cheered by other wheelchair users and disabled people outside the court in London after the ruling.

He said: "I am absolutely delighted. It has been a long fight. We have achieved something really substantial here which will make a difference to people who need the wheelchair space - not just wheelchair users but other disabled people.

"This is important - a significant cultural change.''

Mr Paulley's legal battle was triggered on the morning of February 24 2012 when he attempted to board the 9.40 bus from Wetherby to Leeds operated by FirstGroup which had a sign saying: ''Please give up this space if needed for a wheelchair user.``

But he was left at the stop because a woman with a sleeping baby in a pushchair refused to move out of the designated area when asked by the bus driver. She said the buggy would not fold.

FirstGroup had a policy of ''requesting but not requiring'' non-disabled travellers, including those with babies and pushchairs, to vacate the space if it is needed by a wheelchair user.

On Wednesday seven Supreme Court justices ruled FirstGroup's policy should have gone further.

Court president Lord Neuberger said: "It was not enough for FirstGroup to instruct its drivers simply to request non-wheelchair users to vacate the space and do nothing if the request was refused.

"The approach of the driver must depend upon the circumstances, but where the refusal is unreasonable, some further step to pressurise the non-wheelchair user to move should be considered.''

Lord Neuberger added: "And a refusal to drive on should be considered in appropriate cases.''

Managing Director of First Bus, Giles Fearnley said: "We welcome today’s decision from the Supreme Court.

"It has ruled that bus drivers are not required to remove customers from vehicles, which was a key issue for us. This provides welcome clarity for bus operators, our drivers and our customers.

"This was clearly a difficult case for the Supreme Court with six different judgments, and we look forward to receiving further clarity around the decision when the Court publishes its Order. In response, we will implement any necessary changes.

"We recognise how important it is that bus services are accessible for all customers and we lead the industry in improving bus travel for customers with all disabilities. We are therefore also pleased that the Supreme Court found that we did not discriminate against Mr Paulley."

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