Jan 302017
 

Some people argue that wheelchair users expecting pushchair users to vacate the wheelchair space are expecting special treatment, not equality, and being unreasonable. They advocate “first come first served” as fair.

The answer is that yes, we are expecting special treatment, and we’re not ashamed of that. We need special treatment to have any chance at accessing things which non-disabled people take for granted. This is because the built environment, services and society isn’t set up with our access needs in mind. That’s why Parliament has made it a legal requirement that all service providers make reasonable adjustments. For all other “protected characteristics” (age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and so on) – the Equality Act “just” imposes the obligation not to discriminate. It only requires service providers to proactively do stuff for disabled people. This is to recognise the extra barriers that disabled people face on a day-to-day basis.

One of those adaptations is the wheelchair space on buses. NB: it’s a wheelchair space. It’s not an “everything” space; it’s not a “wheelchair, buggy and luggage” space, it’s not a “first come first served” space, it’s a wheelchair space. This is entirely clear throughout legislation and has never been in dispute at any point in “my” legal case or any other.

It’s designed around wheelchairs, for wheelchair safety (as far as I know pushchair safety on buses has never been assessed, nor crash-tests of buggies or an approved design of buggy spaces, unlike for wheelchairs), wheelchair users’ ease of use and for wheelchair user’s comfort. It has to have signs in it saying it’s for wheelchair users. Passengers and their effects (buggies, luggage) are legally required to move from the wheelchair space if a disabled person needs it, unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g. somebody giving birth on a bus) They are obliged to move under criminal law. Drivers are obliged to allow wheelchair users on, also under criminal law.

There is no law requiring drivers or bus companies to allow a person with a buggy on to a bus, or to allow them to occupy any space on the bus whatsoever.

Our QC put it well in Court:

“The case has in some parts being identified as being about competition between the rights of wheelchair uses, and travelers with children and buggies. But we say that is not the right way to view it.

“We do not suggest that parents traveling with buggies don’t have the need for assistance or to be taken into account.

“We do not suggest that bus companies shouldn’t consider about the general public as it is.

“What we say … is that we have a particular problem – Wheelchair users, Mr. Paulley in particular – and we have been given a particular solution. And we do object to the solution to other problems being grafted on in some way that undermines the strength of the solution which we say Parliament has given” (us.)

(video on Supreme Court website, about 7min 30s in)

The County Court Judge put it more starkly:

Although such a policy might inconvenience a mother with a buggy that, I am afraid, is a consequence of the protection which Parliament has chosen to give to disabled wheelchair users and not to non-disabled mothers with buggies.

(County Court judge as quoted in the Court of Appeal judgment)

So, people with buggies, I’m afraid it is not your space. It was wrong of bus companies to advertise buses as “buggy friendly” where there’s only a wheelchair space and no buggy space. It is doubly wrong of them to put buggy signs in wheelchair spaces. And whilst we’re generally happy to lend the space to others when we’re not using it, us disabled people (well, most of us anyway) object when you selfishly occupy the wheelchair space and refuse to return it to us when we need it.

Happily most parents and guardians agree with usas shown by Mumsnet – but there are a lot more pushchair users than wheelchair users…

If you (non-disabled people with buggies) want a space on buses, perhaps learn from us. This is how we got ours:

It took about 30 years for us to achieve ubiquitous wheelchair spaces on buses. Good luck with your campaign. We fully support you – after all, we want everybody to be able to travel, including parents with buggies (after all, many disabled people are parents!) and as easily and comfortably as possible.

But in the meantime, don’t discriminate against us by using the wheelchair space when we need it.

Graphic: Equality doesn't mean treating everybody the same

Image after Craig Froehle

Jan 232017
 

I met wheelchair user Kerdesan Gallardo after the Supreme Court verdict on Wednesday. She was very enthusiastic and supportive, and I was and am very grateful to her for her support outside the hearing.
When I got home, I was truly shocked to see what had happened to her on her way home. I stayed up late to upload news footage because I was so disturbed. What happened was truly unacceptable. I watched, shocked and open-mouthed, as a woman berated Kerdesan for asking that the EMPTY pushchair in the wheelchair space be folded so she could travel. (The two parents who owned the pushchair had gone upstairs, leaving the pushchair, empty, in the wheelchair space, and refused to move it!) The woman and another passenger then berated her further for “delaying the bus”!

Here’s the footage from 5 News:

Kerdesan commented on another video, giving her experience:

You all watched news between wheelchair user and EMPTY Pram parked on the wheelchair user space. The owner of the EMPTY pram both parents they were there seating upstairs with their two children. They didn’t won’t to fold up their empty pram. The driver tells me to wait for next bus and I already waited 25minutes for this bus to arrive. I was Frozing cold and I am not well, and had long journey to go! I looked and there was a solutions for me to get on the same bus. I asked the driver to move the EMPTY to the side so that I can get on the bus. At that point I was approached by another rude woman passenger as she stands by the centre door of the bus she arguing me and abused me, the language she used on me was not acceptable. She wasn’t even the owner of EMPTY pram. She thinks that disabled people wheelchair user they don’t have right to go on buses. The rude woman passenger she was protecting EMPTY pram and in her Judgements the EMPTY pram has a Top Priority over me in the wheelchair user space. I am listening and reading everyone has different opinions expressed themselves how they feel. Thats obviously fine. Overall someone like me who cannot walk all. I have to use my wheelchair to move around and I have No choice I cannot fold up my wheelchair. All London buses they have only 1 wheelchair user space. I have no other choice

The parents with Pram/pushchairs they have more choices they can fold up their pram/pushchairs they can stay on bus continuing their journeys. This is what we call it equal rights for everyone. By the way I am also parent I got Two children and this is how I brought up my two preicuers children we bought a small and slim pram light weight and easy to fold up. I use 1 left hand pushing my baby pram and my right hand pushing and controling electric. And I can fold up my child’s pram with 1 hand too. All prams and pushchairs are designed to folding it up! But some mums they use their pram and pushchairs like it’s their wardrobes. If the EMPTY Pram cannot give up the priority for wheelchair user space on the bus I wish to get in. Then what about the bus comes with another prams and pushchair and baby is inside the pram or pushchairs. What can the wheelchair user do?

ITV News also covered this incident:

I’m still absolutely mortified that this happened to Kerdesan. It’s especially ironic given she came to support “my” Court Case on the rights of wheelchair users for the wheelchair space on buses.

When people complain we’ve taken a bus company to court for our right to the wheelchair space, when people say we’re over the top or being unfair, please bear in mind the unchallenged, disgusting verbal abuse Kerdesan experienced.

I’m not responsible for the abuse, but I would still like to apologise profusely to Kerdesan for her horrific experience on the way home, and thank her (and all other supporters) for coming to support the case.

Arriva’s Conditions of Carriage

 Buses, Firstbus  Comments Off on Arriva’s Conditions of Carriage
Jan 222017
 

Compare and contrast:

Arriva’s Conditions of Carriage from August 2013 to December 2016:

The driver can require that pushchairs and all types of buggies are folded at busy times, or to request occupants of the designated area to move elsewhere on the vehicle if a customer wishes to board with a wheelchair or scooter. You should co-operate in allowing proper use of this space by vacating it if necessary in favour of a wheelchair or scooter user.

and Arriva’s Conditions of Carriage as of January 2017:

The low floor area on our vehicles generally has a shared bay for the carriage of either one wheelchair or scooter or up to two unfolded pushchairs. Some buses have a separate pushchair bay. We accept unfolded pushchairs on buses that have a shared bay only if it is not already occupied by a wheelchair user or mobility scooter. If a wheelchair or scooter user wishes to board, you are required to fold your pushchair and stow it in the luggage facilities on the vehicle. A wheelchair or mobility scooter cannot be accepted if the vehicle is full.

The change from request to require may be semantic, and the proof is in the pudding as it were. But this is particularly relevant as regards Arriva, because a very similar legal case against Arriva lost. I think that Arriva should apologise to the disabled people who it defeated in that case and compensate them handsomely, but that’s not the way the world works, sadly.

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