I recently hailed a bus in London and asked for the wheelchair ramp. The driver told me that I could not board the bus because there were two buggies in the wheelchair space.
I told her that she was obliged to make the wheelchair space available to me, and cited the Big Red Book, which states:
“Wheelchair users are to be given access to the wheelchair space even if it is occupied by other passengers or buggies. Use the iBus automated announcement to make it clear that the wheelchair space is needed. If necessary, politely but firmly ask the buggy owners to move or fold their buggies to let the wheelchair user into the area as this is the only safe place for them to travel.”
When I had remonstrated with the driver and reminded her of her obligation as quoted above, she said that she could not insist that the buggy owners fold their buggies.
She then spoke to the buggy-owners as follows (I quote verbatim): “Would you be willing to fold your buggy for a wheelchair user?”. The answer was “No”, she shrugged her shoulders and told me I would not be able to get on the bus, and drove off.
There are two aspects to this which I find completely unacceptable.
First of all, the Big Red Book states that she should: “politely but firmly ask the buggy owners to move or fold their buggies to let the wheelchair user into the area”. She was polite but she was not firm. She asked the buggy owners if they would be willing to fold their buggies. This is not a firm request. It is a very feeble request, and conveys no sense of the obligation upon buggy owners to make the wheelchair space available.
(She would surely not have asked someone smoking a cigarette: “Would you be willing to extinguish your cigarette?” but would have been far more insistent - why not also when it comes to access for the disabled??.)
The driver did NOT, therefore, obey the instructions in the Big Red Book.
Secondly, and more seriously, the driver did NOT comply with the law. A recent court judgement has ruled that it is illegal to deny a wheelchair user access to the wheelchair space on a bus, even when that space is occupied by buggies:
TfL and the London bus companies and their drivers are currently NOT meeting their legal obligations.
I am looking at options for taking this case to court.