On Wednesday 18 th January 2017 Mr Doug Paulley half won his case against the bus company FirstGroup about wheelchairs vs buggies. My question is, is it really the end of the fight?
The case started in 2012 when he was refused to board a bus because the wheelchair designated area was occupied by a pushchair. The mother was asked to move out of the area, but she refused, so Mr Paulley was left at the bus stop. He took the bus company to court, and after an initial win, the bus company appealed and had the case overturned in 2014. But Mr Paulley re-appealed against them and the final result is that he has half won. Basically, now bus drivers have to do more than just request parents with pushchairs to move out of the area and fold up the pram, but “require” to move and IF parents refuse and the bus driver thinks that the refusal is unreasonable, he/she can take further action, such as stop the bus.
I am so curious to see if this really happens following this ruling. I am not so convinced that this result will change things. I quite am a pessimist, until I see the changes I do not believe the result will bring us to the end of this fight!
I feel a bit for bus drivers, they work under a lot of pressure. Considering just the traffic, it is already not an easy task. I am so glad I do not have to drive in London, because it is complete madness sometimes. On top of that they also have to deal with passengers, who sometimes lack common sense. At times it is like being at play school again! People just do not care of what is happening around them. Besides, from my personal experience, each driver have to constantly make quick judgements and will work according to their own rules. With this ruling, it will be even more confusing for all of us. I mean, we have it quite clear, but do they?
I have had several bad experiences, like every other wheelchair user like me, and on top of that you need to read drivers mind. I have had bus drivers who prefer that I shout at them when I have to get off, others want to know when I am boarding where I have to get off. Others cannot be asked, just press the blue bell, which btw sometimes either does not work in which case they get upset and shout at you because you did not press it, or they forget and it still is your fault. Another episode that happened to me is this; normally, to let them know you need to board, you just have to wave at them, but this does not apply to everyone. I was with a friend, I waved, the bus stopped, she got on and I was waiting for the ramp, once all the passengers got on and off, he closed the doors and took off. Fortunately, having my friend on the bus she shouted at the driver and he stopped and got me the ramp out. However, he shouted at me because I did not press the bell that is next to the doors, so he did not understand I needed to board. Sometimes you cannot even reach that bell!!! These are not even the worse incidents. One of the worst was when I had to let SIX busses pass me before I was allowed on because there were always full of prams. One of them did not even have a child in it! It was full of shopping and I think this is even worse! And the driver did not let me in because she mistook a bag of water for a kid!
That is why I do not think that this sentence will solve the problem, because in the end is not a proper law, is up to the driver to decide whether the space needs to be evacuated or not. In my view, this is not an option, is a must! Parents choose to have a child, we did not choose to have a disability. Furthermore, pushchairs can be folded, with wheelchairs is not an option, we cannot get out and fold-up. We have to plan ahead on so many things, why cannot parents do the same? If you must travel in a busy area, just put your baby in shoulder carrier or if is old enough to walk tell them to walk! Buy a light, small, quick and easy to fold pram. The ones I see lately are getting bigger and bigger, so big that I can even fit in there. Besides, living in a society where people seem to lack common sense, bus companies should hire someone to control those areas, and move people out of the way when a wheelchair user needs to board. I remember one episode, I was waiting for the ramp, and we all know,(well not all, let’s say some know) that when the ramp comes out you can hear a siren. Well, a man was running to catch the bus and he did not hear or see the ramp, so he tripped on it and he shouted at the driver. When I think about it, I am still laughing! Without considering the one who are in the bus, that even if they see you, or sometimes they pretend to not see you or hear the ramp siren, they do not move out the way. Sometimes I just run them over, so they learn for next time! These are the people we have to commute with.
Besides, I also think in this whole situation we should take a step back. In a city like London, which is overcrowded, the busses we have here are not designed and big enough to accommodate the amount of people who are living here. Although, Mr Paulley does not live in London, the problem seems to be the same. One of the most accessible cities I have been to as wheelchair user is Berlin (see my guide on YouTube here). They have a lot of room on busses, trams, tubes, and trains that can accommodate wheelchairs and buggies both at the same time.
On the day of the verdict I was on the Victoria Derbyshire show (see here) to represent MDUK as campaigner for MDUK Trailblazer about this matter. The charity does a campaign called End of the Line and from the report in April 2016 they surveyed disabled people and found that journeys on public transport are longer, more expensive and more stressful:
- Two thirds of wheelchair users have been denied access to a bus because of public or driver attitudes
- A third have been left stranded after taxis refused pick-up because of their disability
- A quarter are unable to use their nearest train station and have to use costly taxis to get to other stations
So, here we are and my question still is…will this verdict bring us to the end of the fight? Lets wait and see!