This week we heard of the results of a four year hearing on a policy for disabled wheelchair users on buses. It has been ruled that bus drivers will have to do more to accommodate wheelchair users over pushchair users.
This does not mean that drivers have the right to throw anyone off the bus, but they can demand, rather than request a mother with a pushchair to move from a disabled spot.
This does have many implications and I have seen them from both points.
Let me begin with a story I have dating back 27 years ago. I had a small baby in a pushchair, but back then it was a requirement that pushchairs were folded before you even got on a bus. There were no spaces for them. It wasn’t easy, especially having your buggy already folded and baby in arms before the bus arrived, or rushing to do it if the bus was already there. Sometimes there would be someone helpful around that would give you a hand, most of the time you had to get on with it. It wasn’t easy, but there was no other option. So, I’m waiting for the bus with my buggy folded, my baby in my arms and I was also seven and a half months pregnant with my second child. When I struggled on the bus there were no seats, not one person moved for me to sit down with my baby despite me being obviously pregnant. No-one seemed to care, it was my choice to have children I had to put up with it.
Having pushchair places on buses was a brilliant idea, how convenient to just push on your child and not have to fold up your pushchair, especially if the little one is fast asleep, and you have lots of bags.
Having wheelchair places is also a brilliant idea. In fact it’s impossible for a wheelchair user to get on the bus without this facility.
But who should have priority?
Here is another story. Last year I became disabled over night when my spine became damaged by my own auto-immune system. I became wheelchair bound. On a few occasions I have a been refused access onto buses because there has been a wheelchair user already on board. There is nothing that can be done. I have also been refused access because the bus already has pushchairs on board. In fact, I’ve sat at the bus stop for over an hour while three buses went past with no room for me. It’s incredibly frustrating. Particularly when you know that a pushchair can be folded whereas a wheelchair cannot.
When I have got on a bus and a parent has moved from the designated wheelchair user place most of the time they have been fine about it, however there have been times when I’ve been scowled at like it’s my fault that they have had to move or fold up their buggy.
I don’t enjoy making parents move, I don’t enjoy being in a wheelchair. I’d really rather not be.
The facts is the wheelchair places are prioritised for wheelchairs and they have more rights to those places than pushchairs.
I do not think that anyone should be made to get off the bus if they are already on, but if they can fold up their pushchair then they should. This isn’t easy, I know I’ve been there myself. I’ve also had three children where I’ve been totally grateful of the bus service allowing pushchairs. I’ve also been in the position where I’ve had to fold up my pushchair. I have also offered to get off a stop early because another pushchair wanted to get on and their wasn’t room. Sometimes it’s a matter of courtesy. It’s also courteous to help a parent that is struggling to fold her pushchair while holding a baby, it’s no easy task.
I do not think that a wheelchair user should be refused a place on the bus over a pushchair. The places for wheelchair users where campaigned for, they are designated places and it should be more than a matter of courtesy to let a user on.
It was difficult time for disabled people who lobbied parliament for many years before the disability act was passed in 1995.
I really do not understand the attitude that I’ve seen from some parents who say they will refuse to move for anyone. I’ve seen some incredibly hurtful comments about wheelchair users.
This article from the BBC News gives the arguments from all view points.
A wheelchair has no rights to ask a pushchair user to get off the bus but they should fold up their pushchair if they are taking a wheelchair space.
The driver now has to tell the pushchair user to move for a wheelchair rather than just request it, is this going to cause even more angry parents on the bus, after all, they’ve paid for their fare too.
A lot of it is down to courtesy and respect and it should work both ways.
What are your opinions, do you have a perfect answer or a story to tell?