Partial Victory For Doug Paulley In ‘Wheelchair V Buggy’ Case
A disabled man has won a Supreme Court case after a dispute with a woman with a buggy over wheelchair space on a bus.
It means bus drivers may have to do more to accommodate wheelchair users.
Wheelchair user Doug Paulley brought his case after he was told he could not get on a bus to Leeds in 2012, when a mother with a pushchair refused to move.
He had argued operator FirstGroup’s “requesting, not requiring” policy was discriminatory.
The court allowed the appeal, but to a limited extent.
It ruled that FirstGroup’s policy of requiring a driver to simply request a non-wheelchair user to vacate the space without taking any further steps was unjustified.
The company should consider some further steps to pressurise the non-wheelchair user to vacate the space, depending on the circumstances, it said.
BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman said the judgement falls short of making it a legal requirement for bus companies to compel non-wheelchair passengers to move from the space.
‘A matter of judgement’
Reacting to the judgement, Mr Paulley told the BBC: “Who would have thought that five years on I would still being discussing the day I had that problem going across to see my parents for lunch?”
“It’s been amazing the amount of support I’ve had – disabled people, organisations, lawyers, family, allies.
“This is hopefully going to make a major difference to disabled people’s travel.”
Asked whether the verdict went far enough, Mr Paulley said the issue would always involve “a matter of judgement” from drivers.
He added: “There’s always got to be some judgement and there will always be some exceptional circumstances where somebody can’t be expected to move out of the space.
“But what this judgement means is the driver has to make their own decision as to whether the person is being unreasonable in refusing to move, and if they are, he or she has to tell them that they are required to move, and if necessary refuse to move the bus until they shift.
“So that’s very clear I think.”
But Mr Paulley’s solicitor, Chris Fry, said the ruling had fallen short.
“The judgement should have gone further – there’s no right as things currently stand to force someone off a bus. So it goes as far as that, but not that far yet.”
Speaking on BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire Programme, wheelchair users reacted to the judgement.
Zoe Williams said: “I think the whole point of the case was to try to get more clarity about how far bus drivers are meant to go in terms of requiring people to move out of the space. I’m not sure this ruling has provided this clarity.”
Will Pike told the programme: “We were seeking some sort of clarity.
“Doug has done an incredible job of bringing this issue to light and to the mainstream media’s attention, and at the end of it there’s no news.
“It’s kind of back to square one.”
Penny Mordaunt, the Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health said it was an “important and welcome” ruling.
She said she would be talking to the Department for Transport about “clarity, good practice and the powers of transport providers to ensure this ruling becomes a reality”.