‘We must keep banging the drum,’ says bus campaigner after five-year fight for justice
Summary: The disabled activist who yesterday won a ground-breaking legal victory that protects the rights of wheelchair-users to travel on buses has said he does not regret the five years he has spent fighting the case through the courts.
Doug Paulley, from Wetherby, near Leeds, said he hoped the victory over the public transport giant FirstGroup would be a “morale-booster” for disabled people across the country, who he said were living through “very dark and worrying” times.
But he warned that the barriers facing wheelchair-users travelling on buses were “not going to change overnight”.
He said the legal case had been “about achieving cultural change, which is never easy or quick, and it’s a struggle to make that happen, and hopefully what lots of people have achieved today is one step towards something approaching cultural change.
“I think it’s worth it in terms of the pressure for change and the potential for change; it has got a lot of people thinking and taking about it, which can only improve awareness.”
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday (Wednesday) that First Bus had breached its duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people under the Equality Act through its “first come, first served” policy on the use of wheelchair spaces.
It was the first case of disability discrimination in service provision to be heard by the country’s highest court.
Paulley had been planning to travel to Leeds to visit his parents in February 2012, but was prevented from entering a bus because the driver refused to insist that a mother with a sleeping child in a pushchair should move from the only wheelchair space.
After he launched a legal case for discrimination, the county court ruled that wheelchair-users should have priority in the use of dedicated wheelchair spaces, and that First Bus’s policy breached the Equality Act.
The court of appeal then over-turned that ruling and said instead that a bus driver needed only to request – and not demand – that a non-disabled passenger should vacate the space if it was needed by a wheelchair-user.
But the Supreme Court yesterday ruled unanimously that disabled passengers have a right to priority access over the wheelchair space on a bus – although failing to award any damages to Paulley – and that a driver must do more than simply ask a non-disabled passenger to move.
The ruling should mean that bus drivers are now “required” to ask passengers blocking the space to move, said Paulley, and are then “required to ask them if they have a genuine reason for not doing so if they refuse”, and “required” to take measures to pressure them into doing so if they will still not move.
These measures should probably include refusing to drive off for several minutes, in order to shame the passenger blocking the space into moving, although the driver will not have the legal power to throw them off the bus.
Paulley said: “I think the bus industry, the public transport industry and possibly other industries too will be going away and studying this in quite some detail.
“I don’t think a lot of it is going to be overnight. I don’t think this is going to be a universal panacea.
“It would be nice if it was, but it’s a step towards it. We must keep banging the drum.”
He said he hoped the government would now make changes to clarify and strengthen the rights of wheelchair-users through the government’s bus services bill, which has just started its progress through the Commons.
Penny Mordaunt, the minister for disabled people, said on Twitter immediately after the ruling that she would now be speaking to the Department for Transport “re clarity, good practice & powers a transport operator has to ensure this ruling become a reality”.
Alan Benson, chair of London’s user-led accessible transport charity Transport for All (TfA), welcomed the judgment, although he said TfA “would have liked to see it go further and make it a requirement of the driver to get people to move or a requirement that people move when asked”.
He said he was frustrated at the lack of clarity in the judgment – which had different judgments delivered by six of the seven justices – but he said it was still “a day for celebration”.
He said: “Today it’s about the victory; tomorrow we need to look at what the next steps are.
“I think there are a lot of conversations going on this afternoon about just what it means.”
He added: “It is an incredibly difficult climate, where disabled people’s rights and freedoms are being chipped away at every day, where disabled people in society are increasingly the victims of hate crime, verbal and physical abuse.
“I think they are looking for every morale boost they can find and I think this has got to be one of them.”
Chris Fry, from Unity Law, who has represented Paulley throughout his legal battle, said the decision establishes what he called the “Paulley Principle”: that bus companies have to give priority use of the wheelchair space to disabled customers.
He said immediate changes needed to be made by First Group and other transport companies.
Baroness [Sal] Brinton, the disabled Liberal Democrat peer and party president, and herself a wheelchair-user, said: “I am delighted that Doug Paulley has won this important Supreme Court case.
“The Paulley Principle is vital to make sure that disabled travellers are not treated as second-class citizens.
“In the detail of the judgement, the Supreme Court judges say that there need to be legislative changes to make this happen, not least to give bus drivers the power to require a passenger to move.
“Following the minister’s comments on my amendments in the bus service bill, saying he was waiting for the outcome of this case, I will now be asking him to ensure that the legislation is enacted as swiftly as possible.”
David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which funded Paulley’s appeal, said: “Public transport is essential for disabled people to live independently, yet bus companies have not made it easy for this to happen.
“This is a victory for disabled people’s rights. The success of this case means bus companies will have to end ‘first come, first served’ polices, increasing peace of mind for disabled people.”
Paulley paid tribute to the years of support he has received that have made the victory possible from disabled people’s organisations and individual disabled people and their allies, including Unity Law, Transport for All and the website Mumsnet, all of which had “gone out of their way to support this and make this change”.
Paulley said he did not know when he would attempt his next bus journey, following the Supreme Court ruling.
He said the incident with First Bus in 2012 had seriously knocked his confidence about travelling on buses as a wheelchair-user, and the incident still affected him.
He said: “I have various mental health issues… and that fear of confrontation does genuinely cause an issue for me, so I don’t know.”
Source: Disability News Service
Other recent news items:
- Doctors’ union finally agrees to spread the word
- Disability Politics UK: call to prioritise step free access
- Children with disabilities: targeted violence and hostility
- Dementia care: how social enterprises are developing products and services
- Adass spring seminar: four things you need to know
- The Disability Audit: the eight coalition policies that have hit disabled people
- DWP told to publish ESA deaths report, after two-year delay
- The struggle to find work when you have Down's syndrome
- PIP Delay Crisis Over, Claims DWP
- Meet Justin Tomlinson MP- New Minister For Disabled People
- A quick guide to new care minister Alistair Burt
- How to use your disability as a strength when applying for jobs
- Devastating impact of cuts on disabled people
- NHS ‘has wasted more than a year’ on latest bid to improve wheelchair services
- Five Thousand Disabled Adults Sexually Abused In Last 2 Years Says NSPCC
- ESA Claimant Takes On Maximus And Wins
- One in five benefit-related deaths involved sanctions, admits DWP
- Manchester United tell family with disabled son to watch Stockport instead
- Joint mental health commissioning strategy
- New parliament sees number of disabled MPs plunge
- Motability under spotlight over cuts to grants… despite £190 million reserves
- Disabled people ‘should come together in new national body’
- 'It's a great honour': Selby appoints UK's first mayor with learning disabilities
- Voluntary Community Social Enterprise Review website
- Cameron downgrades minister for disabled people
- Poor UK cancer survival rates linked to lack of GP direct access to scans
- Charity highlights role of siblings in supporting adults with a disability
- Queen’s Speech fails to mention social care funding
- Queen’s speech ‘suggests the worst is yet to come'
- TV industry must improve representation of disabled people
- The bionic suit helping wheelchair users get back on their feet
- New project to tackle mental health issues
- Equality watchdog contradicts football’s Premier League over access
- Schools 'must improve support for diabetic children'
- National Theatre plans shows on issue of disability
- Rise in mental health bed occupancy
- Watchdog writes to Man Utd after stewards confiscate walking aids from fans
- Government cuts ‘could see disabled people slide back to the bad old days’
- Disabled payment delay unlawful, judge rules
- The 'dragons' who want to help disabled people start their own business
- Boy, 12, wins £120,000 in damages after swine-flu jab left him 'severely disabled' by narcolepsy
- DWP ignores watchdog’s deadline over benefit-related deaths
- Man who cannot walk or talk called for jobcentre 'back to work' interview
- UK woman can ride bike for first time with 'world's most lifelike bionic hand'
- GPs to refer more patients with low-risk cancer symptoms under new NICE guidance
- Disability campaigners clash with police inside parliament over benefit cuts
- Indefinite Award DLA Transfer To PIP Will Start From July In Certain Postcodes
- Disabled children less happy with hospital care than peers
- ILF closure: Process has caused ‘fear, stress and anxiety’, say researchers
- Disability poverty rose sharply in fourth year of coalition
- UK services failing patients with dementia
- Shadow disability minister admits backing assisted suicide bill
- Disabled people's rights threatened by government cuts, campaigners warn
- BBC Three’s ‘Defying The Label’ Season
- From 'bloodied knees' to the House of Commons as a disabled MP
- Mental health patients sent hundreds of miles for beds as out of area placements rise 23 per cent
- Systematic over-medication blights learning disability care
- The Superhumans return to Channel 4
- Accessible Information Standard Approved
- Doctors demand return of lung cancer awareness campaign
- David O’Mar, 58, Found Fit For Work Two Weeks Before His Death
- World First Bionic Eye Gives Hope To Millions
- Seven-day NHS to include child mental health services, minister confirms
- Court hears appeal on ‘unfair’ PIP 20 metre rule consultation
- New report by Business Disability Forum cites lack of skills in line managers as major barrier to retention of disabled employees
- Tanni says 10,000 signatures could finally transform wheelchair services
- BBC3 presenter and journalist crowdfunding to transform the lives of people with disabilities in Ghana
- Disabled voters take pioneering legal action over election access
- Has disability sport lost its London 2012 Paralympics momentum?
- NHS Announce New Care Guidelines For Learning Disabilities
- Fresh evidence that ‘benefit scrounger rhetoric’ is causing hate crime
- Sanctioned Jobseekers With Mental Health Problems Are Not ‘Vulnerable’ Says DWP
- Clubs “Neglecting Responsibility” To Disabled Fans
- Latest Figures Show Massive Rise In ESA Sanctions
- ‘Bizarre’ figures raise fears over ministers’ plans for ESA
- School nurses ‘need better mental health training’
- Number of people developing dementia 'stabilising'
- Boy, nine, fitted with first prosthetic hand that can change grip with gestures
- Iain Duncan Smith criticises employers over disability employment gap
- Disability benefit sanctions soar by 30% in a year
- Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show
- Goths at risk of depression or self-harming, research says
- Elderly 'ripped off' in mobility scooter market
- GPs are missing cancer in children - because they 'don't have enough training'
- IDS announces 'fitness for work' U-turn that was five years in the making
- People with autism and learning disabilities excel in creative thinking, study shows
- Starbucks apologises for telling woman she was not 'disabled enough' to use the toilet
- DLA Lifetime Award PIP Transition Started from 1 September in 29 New Areas
- Successful 'Fit for Work' Appeals at Highest Ever Level, Show DWP Stats
- Why is our justice system failing vulnerable people?
- UN investigating British Government over human rights abuses caused by IDS welfare reforms
- Coroners 'ground breaking' verdict: Suicide was 'triggered' by 'fit for work' test
- Schoolboy calls for more disabled characters in children's books
- The quadruple amputee who needs the correct prosthetic
- Welfare to work programme failing disabled and ill jobseekers, say charities
- Disabled fans 'delighted' as Premier League finally acts on access
- Two-thirds of adult social care requests rejected by local councils
- Independent Living Fund: Government silence 'suggests something to hide'
- UK employers report rise in mental health problems: CIPD study
- UN inquiry considers alleged UK disability rights violations
- Parliament's own disability group picks first non-disabled chair in nearly 50 years
- Dementia drug 'keeps patients out of nursing homes'
- Disability benefit cuts will actually make it harder for disabled people to find work,coalition of 60 charities warns
- Problems with the care and treatment provided by the NHS and/or difficulties in accessing health services?
- Consultation on the proposed new adult social care strategy
- The Leicestershire Advice Service for Social Care is here to guide you
- Minister: MPs must help 'open doors' for disabled jobseekers
- 'Homes not hospitals': learning disability care to move to community
- Equality Act 'simply isn't strong enough' for BSL-users, peers are told
- Disability Hate Crimes Rise 41% In A Year
- Companies fear employing people with learning disabilities, survey reveals
- DWP cuts specialist disability employment advisors in jobcentres by over 60 per cent
- Watchdog 'must do more to support disabled people to fight discrimination'
- ‘We must keep banging the drum,’ says bus campaigner after five-year fight for justice
- 2,000 disabled people wrongly declared ‘fit to work’ by DWP in just three months
- Local authorities 'spend close to nothing on mental health'
- Rock band with learning disabilities release first single
- NICE seeks to improve diagnosis and treatment of cerebral palsy
- Premier League clubs face legal threat unless disabled access is improved
- UK’s progress on disability rights ‘patchy and tortuous’, UN told
- Peer pressure sees minister finally announce date for taxi access laws
- Stop the NHS slashing vulnerable people’s care packages in and around Leicestershire
- Minister tells industries to increase representation of disabled people
- Disabled children in England 'finding it increasingly hard to access council care'
- Wheelchair Rugby Loses Funding Appeal
- Plans that could force people into institutions could be ‘front line’ of national problem
- Young people 'fear stigma' if they ask for mental-health help
- Disability benefits process is 'inherently flawed', MPs told
- Businesses woefully ill-equipped to deal with Britain's rapidly growing mental health crisis
- Cash boost for pupils with special needs and disability
- PIP investigation: ‘Horrific’ suicide question sparks fresh assessment inquiry calls
- Disability report: Being disabled in Britain
- Stop PIP reassessments for patients with progressive diseases, campaigners say
- Patients with learning disabilities missing out on health checks
- Thousands have disability vehicles taken away
- Aspire announces GLL and LCiL as first partners to lead InstructAbility
- Easy read guide to voting by post
- Online campaign ‘could enable disabled people to affect election outcome’
- Health Committee inquiry and report: Brexit and Health and Social Care – People and Process
- Women’s Resource Centre report: the Impact of Austerity Measures on Women’s Voluntary and Community Organisations
- Disabled people ‘forced into dangerous workfare that breaches health and safety laws’
- Mental Health Foundation report: Surviving or Thriving? The State of the UK’s Mental Health
- Stirling University to launch home dementia app
- General Election 2017: What are the parties promising disabled people?
- Anger, resignation… and optimism in wake of general election result
- New disabled MPs pledge to fight for rights in parliament