After hearing yesterday’s verdict at the Supreme Court, I'm pleased that Doug Paulley has won the case that will allow disabled people to have priority for the wheelchair space on buses.
Like many wheelchair users I have been in the same position as Doug, finding myself unable to board a bus because other passengers wouldn’t make way for me.
Back in December I was in Bristol waiting for a bus to take me to Temple Meads station after visiting family. When one arrived I was told by the driver I couldn’t board as there was a passenger with a buggy in the wheelchair space. To his credit the driver did ask the passenger to move, but she refused, claiming that she couldn’t fold the buggy.
I tried to explain to the driver that I thought wheelchair users took priority over prams. He told me that wasn’t actually true, said there was nothing more he could do, then closed his doors and drove off, leaving me with a 40 minute wait until the next bus.
Hopefully the Supreme Court's ruling should clear up this confusion, making it clear that wheelchair users do have priority and also help disabled people travel more freely without the fear they won’t be able to use public transport.
But it’s important this shouldn’t be seen as a battle between prams and wheelchairs. I understand that it can be inconvenient for a parent to have to fold up their push chair on a busy bus. But it’s also inconvenient for wheelchair users like me to be left stranded in the cold unable to get to our destination.
Transport providers should take more responsibility here and use this as an opportunity to raise awareness among their passengers. If people make a little room it makes a big difference for disabled travellers.