Disabled passengers win partial victory for priority use of wheelchair spaces on buses

Disability groups are hailing the Supreme Court’s support for wheelchair users on buses as a ‘significant cultural change’.

A ruling will now see bus drivers put pressure on other passengers to make room for wheelchair users if they believe their refusal to move is unreasonable.

A disabled man led the campaign to allow priority use of bus wheelchair space and partially won his case at the Supreme Court.

Wheelchair user Doug Paulley highlighted the issue to parliament after being left at a bus stop in Wetherby, West Yorkshire in 2012. He had been unable to board the bus after a woman with a baby in a pushchair refused to move out of the designated area when asked by the driver.

The bus, operated by FirstGroup, had been displaying a sign which read, “Please give up this space if needed for a wheelchair user”. Following the incident, a judge at Leeds County Court ruled that bus companies were not legally required to compel parents to move their children’s prams for wheelchair users.

However, in January 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that FirstGroup’s policy of ‘requesting but not requiring’ non-disabled travelers to vacate the space if needed by a wheelchair user, breached its duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people.

The Supreme Court judgement suggested that the case highlights the need for legislative changes. A bus services bill is currently going through parliament.


Last medically reviewed: January, 2017 • January, 2020