Avoiding Disability Discrimination in Transport
Bus and Coach Operators
Disability discrimination legislation makes it unlawful for organisations such as bus and coach operators to discriminate against disabled people in the way in which they provide or do not provide their services.
All bus and coach operators have duties under disability discrimination law in relation to transport infrastructure such as their buildings, information services and the selling of tickets. They also have duties in relation to the provision and use of the vehicles they provide.
The legislation makes it unlawful for bus and coach operators to refuse or deliberately fail to provide a service to a disabled person. They must also make "reasonable adjustments" to take away or overcome elements in their services which present barriers to disabled people.
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The bus or coach operator should concentrate on the needs of disabled people and should consider the service they provide and determine how they could make it more accessible for disabled people. This should be done when planning the provision of a service to prevent disabled people being separated out from other passengers.
The Equality Commission has produced a new Code of Practice which explains the law and provides guidance to transport providers, advisors and disabled people on the scope of the Disability Transport Regulations.
As well as complying with the legislation, making services more accessible and marketing them as such is likely to increase an operator´s attractiveness to disabled passengers, who represent around 1 in 5 people in Northern Ireland.
What does the law define as a coach or a bus?
The law defines buses and coaches as vehicles which carry more than eight passengers and are used for hire and reward. The DDA calls them Public Service Vehicles. This includes vehicles used for local and scheduled services, as well as those used for leisure and tourism purposes. It includes, for example, all public transport buses and coaches used for tours.
Examples of discrimination
Disabled people can encounter unfair treatment in transport in many ways. Here are a few examples of how a disabled person may be discriminated against by a bus or coach operator:
- A disabled person cannot get on a bus because the driver cannot or will not deploy the ramp.
- A person with a visual or hearing disability cannot access the services because the timetable and written information is not available in an accessible format, where it is reasonable to do so.
- When trying to make a telephone enquiry with a tour company a person with a speech impairment is told to hurry up and the telephone operator terminates the call because the person is taking too long
- A disabled person is charged more than a non disabled person due to the storage of his or her wheelchair or for his or her assistance dog.
- A blind person with a white stick misses his or her bus because the driver, despite noticing their white stick, does not tell the passenger the destination of the bus.