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Archive for January, 2017

All Aboard!

The Equality Act 2010 imposes a duty on any service provider (providing a service to the public or a section of the public whether or not for a fee) to make reasonable adjustments to, inter alia, a provision, criterion or practice which puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled.  In line with its duty, a bus company provided a space (’the space’) on buses for wheelchair users.  A sign read “Please give up this space if needed for a wheelchair user.”  A wheelchair user wished to board a bus but was asked by the driver to wait as the space was occupied by a woman passenger with a pushchair.  Upon being asked by the driver to move, the woman refused and the wheelchair user was left at the bus stop.  He issued proceedings against the bus company and the case proceeded to the Supreme Court (FirstGroup plc v Paulley [2017] UKSC 4).

The bus company’s policy at the time of the incident did not give wheelchairs priority over ‘buggies’.  This was later changed giving wheelchair users priority but the bus company made clear that a driver had no power to compel passengers to vacate the space.  Although conduct regulations authorise a driver to remove a passenger infringing regulations or request assistance from a police constable, the company’s policy was simply to request that the space be vacated if required.  The seven Supreme Court judges hearing the case felt this did not go far enough.  Although the judges could foresee difficulties and potential inconvenience to other passengers, to reasonably require and not simply request a passenger to move would, they felt, be sufficient.  Lady Hale said “With a proper system of notices, making the position plain, backed up with firm statements from the driver, everyone would know where they stood.  The culture would change.  Disruption and confrontation would be unlikely.”  It is hoped they are correct.