The Equality Act requires bus companies to take steps to ensure Disabled people can get the same service as everybody else by making reasonable adjustments for Disabled people. The steps the bus companies have to take include:
- Ensuring there is physical access, for example operating a ramp, or stopping the bus so it is safe for you to exit
- Having priority spaces and seats for Disabled people and taking some steps to ensure those are freed for Disabled passengers when needed
- Ensuring you know or can find out where you are and when your stop is.
In 2017, in the case of Paulley v FirstGroup PLC, the Supreme Court confirmed that it would be reasonable for a driver not only to ask other passengers to free up a wheelchair space, but that they should find out why if they do not do so. If, in the driver’s opinion, they could easily move to another part of the bus, the driver should take further steps to persuade them.
This could include rephrasing the request as a requirement or refusing to drive on for some time. Therefore, the bus company’s policy should at least require the driver to take all those steps.
Reasonable adjustments that are already made, such as ramps or audio-visual announcements should be in working order and the bus companies should take steps to fix them promptly. Any adjustments that are made should respect your dignity and encourage your independence.
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 requires bus companies to provide their service in a way that does not discriminate against you because of something connected to your disability, unless they can give a good reason why they are doing it and can show that this is the only way to achieve their aim.
For example, if the driver stops the bus too far from the bus stop and you can’t see it or the driver switches off audio-visual announcements or stops the bus in a way that makes it impossible for you to get on or off. The bus company is responsible for the actions of its drivers. They must make sure that their drivers do not discriminate against anyone. The company can be liable for the discrimination you experience as a result of the driver’s behaviour.
Breaching the Act
If you have experienced any of the problems below, it is most likely that the bus company breached your rights under the Equality Act:
- The wheelchair space was occupied by non-Disabled people or buggies and the driver did not do anything to help free the space for you
- You needed priority seats which were occupied by non-Disabled people and the driver did not do anything to help free them up
- The driver did not operate the ramp
- The bus did not stop for you or you were not allowed on the bus and you think this was because of something connected to your disability
- You missed your stop because the driver forgot to alert you.
Complaining and more…
If you face any of these challenges when travelling by bus, you can make a complaint to prevent the same situation from happening again. Your complaint could potentially lead to changes that will help many other Disabled people. In many cases the company will be in breach of the Equality Act and you will be able to take them to court.
It is always worth making a complaint regardless of whether you are thinking of taking legal action or not. Good companies that care about their customers monitor complaints and use them to make improvements.
Thanks to the Disability Justice Project for the information for this post.
Find out more about what you can do if you have problems on a bus journey