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Bus company not obliged to require passengers to make way for wheelchair users


The Court of Appeal today set aside a judgment against FirstGroup plc, the bus operator, for disability discrimination by failing to make reasonable adjustments.

A Recorder sitting at Leeds County Court had awarded damages to Mr Paulley, a disabled wheelchair user. Mr Paulley had been unable to board a bus operated by a FirstGroup subsidiary because a woman travelling with a baby in a buggy refused to vacate the wheelchair space when requested to do so by the driver. The Recorder held that FirstGroup had breached its duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make Œreasonable adjustments¹ by changing its policy to one that required rather than merely requested occupants of the wheelchair space to move.

The Court of Appeal (Arden, Lewison and Underhill LJJ) held that a bus driver has no public law power to remove a passenger who refuses to move in these circumstances; and the duty to make reasonable adjustments could not require FirstGroup to adopt a policy that it could not enforce.

Furthermore, there were circumstances in which it would not be reasonable to require a passenger occupying the wheelchair space to move; and it would not be reasonable to require drivers to adjudicate between competing claims for the space.

The judgment is here.

The BBC report can be found here.

Martin Chamberlain QC and Tim Johnston appeared for FirstGroup plc.  Emily MacKenzie acted at an earlier stage in the litigation.