Should wheelchair users get priority over mums with pushchairs? The question is one that has been debated for as long as buses have been  running and at the end of last year the Court of Appeal overturned a County Court decision that they should. 

 In February of 2012 wheelchair user Doug Polley was refused from a bus because there was already a pram in the disabled space. Fed up with being made late by mums who wouldn’t fold their pushchairs up to let a disabled person use the disabled space Doug took action. He launched a case against First Bus Group and in September of 2013 the judge ruled that the incident breached the 2010 Equality Act.

However, just last month the Court of Appeal overturned this decision and said that First Bus Group did not have to make passengers with buggies move for a wheelchair user. This decision has set a precedent and now no bus service has to make parents leave if a disabled person wants to use the bus. But is this change a good one?

Even parents are split as to who gets priority to the space. A mumsnet discussion reveals that a lot of mums would move, sometimes even off the bus, to allow a wheelchair into the space.  The idea that a wheelchair user has as much right to use public transport as any other member of society helped Mr Polley win his case in 2013. It’s probably why the big space at the front of the bus is known by most people as the disabled bay.

Since the ruling in December some wheelchair users have found themselves being refused from buses multiply times. Victoria Perez recently featured in a local paper because of this. In the article Victoria said: “I have a friend who is also in a wheelchair and she won’t get the bus now because she doesn’t want to get into a confrontation.” So although many expected the change in law to have little impact because of basic human decency it appears that the latest ruling means pushchair parents can be even pushier. 

The flip side of course is that all passengers are equal, even those with a pushchair or wheelchair. And if that’s the case then why should a passenger be made to leave a bus just because somebody else wants there seat. Although the Equality Act of 2010 means that all buses should have space and  ramps so that they are accessible for wheelchairs by 2017 a lot of buses are just putting in the one multifunctional space for wheelchairs and pushchairs. As National Express writes on their website: “The wheelchair / pushchair / mobility scooter bays are available to all passengers on a first come, first served basis. No passengers have priority over other passengers on the bus. Under current legislation this includes wheelchair users.

                

Expecting a mother to leave a bus because somebody else wants the space is unreasonable. But folding a pushchair and sitting with their child on a lap, I don’t think that’s so unreasonable. The public should be more empathetic towards each other. I think most people wouldn’t begrudge a little delay to their journey if it meant that every member of the public has as much right to the public service.

The pushchair vs wheelchair argument is one with no clear winner. Both sides have valuable points. I think the only thing that is clear from the latest developments is that buses need to provide more room to allow wheelchairs and pushchairs both room on the bus.

 

Wheelchair vs pushchair: battle for the buses