In a recent Supreme Court case, Doug Paulley and Unity Law brought a significant amount of public awareness to the battle between wheelchair users and pushchairs which plights the travel of wheelchair users across the country. Mr Paulley attempted to travel on a First Group bus from Wetherby to Leeds in February 2012 but was unable to board due to a mother refusing to move her sleeping child in a pushchair that was occupying the wheelchair space. Now obviously, both the mother with her child and Mr Paulley had a right to be on the bus, hence the long and tiresome court battle to ensure others do not encounter this level of discrimination.
The result of the Supreme Court case was that bus drivers should not just ask a non-wheelchair user to vacate the wheelchair space but should take “suitable steps” to pressure them to make way for the wheelchair user. Drivers do not have the legal right to force a parent to move their pushchair however, so there is still a substantial amount of grey area surrounding the right to use the wheelchair space on a bus.
As was showcased at the 2016 Eurobus Expo on the new ‘Platinum’ National Express West Midland buses, manufacturers have begun to design spaces catering for both wheelchair users and pushchairs. This obviously goes a long way in resolving the space issue, but what options do operators have if they are not in the process of updating their fleet?
Q’Straint have a specialist device called QUANTUM which can be retrofitted into an existing fleet. The innovative solution is the transport industry’s first Fully Automatic Wheelchair Securement Station. Devised for bus transit markets across the world by the R&D teams at Q’Straint’s UK & US facilities, QUANTUM addresses the many safety aspects faced by wheelchair passengers when travelling. But, an additional feature discovered during market testing was that when installed, QUANTUM clearly marks the wheelchair space with its first priority use – for transporting wheelchairs. Installed into the designated wheelchair space on an existing bus, QUANTUM consists of a backrest and a swing arm system which, when not in use, are stored in the upright position allowing the space to be utilised by non-wheelchair users.
During trials, passengers with pushchairs did indeed use the space, but due to the presence of QUANTUM, fed back to Q’Straint that they felt like they were “borrowing” the space and that they would be more inclined to fold up their pushchair to make provisions for the wheelchair user to travel too.
Since the outcome of the Supreme Court case, many other wheelchair users have come forward with cases of discrimination. There have also been bus drivers coming forward stating that they are not comfortable with the position they have now been put in to pressure passengers with pushchairs to move. The Supreme Court judgement will not change things overnight but with greater public awareness along with devices such as QUANTUM from Q’Straint, the frequency of these issues should begin to decline.
For more information: www.qstraint.com/quantum