A disabled rights charity has hit out after a politician who uses a wheelchair couldn’t board a London bus because the driver would not ask a parent with a buggy to move.
Baroness Sal Brinton, Lib Dem party president, tweeted her anger after she was left to wait for the next bus, whose driver wouldn’t ask the parent to move from the space for wheelchair users.
Scope told HuffPost UK this was “unacceptable” but warned it was still happening despite a Supreme Court ruling in January that said bus companies had to more to ensure exactly this situation did not arise.
That case was brought by a man who had a dispute with a woman with a buggy who refused to move from the wheelchair space which has a notice on it saying: “Please give up this space for a wheelchair user.”
“We are still hearing from disabled people facing the same problems as before. This is unacceptable,” James Taylor, the charity’s head of policy, campaigns and public affairs, said.
“Wheelchair spaces are often a lifeline into work and the local community for disabled people.
“Yet as shown by [Baroness Brinton being refused], many disabled people still face difficulties accessing them on buses, often causing a great deal of distress...
“Transport companies need to take this issue seriously so wheelchair users are no longer excluded from using their services.”
Baroness Brinton said the bus she could not board was “fairly empty” and “if the wheelchair goes in first you can fit both a buggy and a wheelchair in the space”.
She boarded the next bus after the driver did this.
“I couldn’t see the parent, and the driver did not put down the ramp and said they were not prepared to ask the parent to make space so it made it impossible for me and so I had to wait,” she told The Evening Standard.
“It made me very angry, and even more so because this is not the first time this has happened…
“When this happened to me two years ago, I spoke to TfL and they said they would make sure bus companies trained drivers so that this would be avoided. Clearly that was not the case.”
Transport for London (TfL) told HuffPost UK it was investigating, saying “clearly something has gone wrong here”.
Claire Mann, TfL’s director of bus operations, said in a statement: “We’re very sorry and disappointed to hear about Baroness Brinton’s experience.
“It is essential wheelchair users are given priority over buggies on buses and clearly something has gone wrong here. We will investigate this with the bus company immediately.
“We know that there is much more to do to make our services more accessible to everyone and we welcome any feedback which will help us to improve.”
A TfL spokesman all London bus drivers had been briefed on the Supreme Court ruling and completed “bespoke accessibility training”.
While the Supreme Court said more had to be done, it stopped short of saying bus companies had a legal duty to move those who are not disabled from wheelchair spaces to make way for those who do.