Skip to main content
In order to provide complete functionality, this web site needs your explicit consent to store browser cookies. If you don't allow cookies, you may not be able to use certain features of the web site including but not limited to: log in, buy products, see personalized content, switch between site cultures. It is recommended that you allow all cookies.
Want to stay on the right side of the law? We support businesses and public authorities and help them to promote good practice.

Vehicle breakdown

What you need to know

How we can help



Breakdown recovery operators - Avoid disability discrimination

It is against the law for transport service providers such as breakdown and recovery operators to discriminate against disabled people in the way in which they provide or do not provide their services.

Breakdown and recovery operators have duties under disability discrimination law in relation to transport infrastructure such as their buildings and information services. They also have duties in relation to the provision and use of the vehicles they provide.

The legislation makes it unlawful for breakdown and recovery 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. This extends to providing a reasonable alternative method of making the service available.


What is the Code of Practice?

The Equality Commission has produced a Code of Practice on the Provision and Use of Transport Vehicles 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 breakdown recovery vehicle?

The law defines breakdown recovery vehicles as those deployed by a breakdown or recovery operator, whether or not a third party or sub contractor is used. The purpose of these vehicles must be to transport the driver and occupants of a broken down vehicle from the scene of an accident or breakdown. A breakdown or recovery operator means the provider of roadside assistance services for the purpose of recovering or repairing a broken down vehicle.

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 vehicle breakdown service provider:


  • In a breakdown recovery operator’s membership agreement there is a clause which states that the operator will not charge for bringing a customer from the scene of a breakdown or accident in a recovery vehicle. The operator arranges for alternative transport for a member who is also a wheelchair user and charges them extra. This would be discrimination as the breakdown operator is treating the disabled customer less favourably because of his or her disability.
  • A breakdown operator has a practice of placing customers in a queue on a “first come first served” basis. A motorist calls the operator to report a breakdown and explains that she has a heart condition which requires regular medication. The motorist is afraid that if she does not get home to take her medication in time, there could be serious medical side effects. The operator places this caller at the top of the queue for assistance. This
    would be a reasonable adjustment for the operator to make.
  • A deaf customer’s car breaks down and she contacts a breakdown company of which she is a member. As part of the customer’s membership package she gets free transport to her home in the event that their vehicle cannot be repaired by the roadside. The operator of the repair vehicle cannot repair the vehicle at the roadside and has to tow it to the nearest garage.
    Before he leaves to tow the vehicle the operator tells the customer, who has an assistance dog, that the organisation has a policy of not allowing animals in their recovery vehicles, despite the vehicle having adequate room, and advises the customer to order a taxi or arrange alternative transport. This may amount to discrimination, even if it is unintentional, as the operator has not made a reasonable adjustment to its policy to enable the disabled customer to access the service.

The Law
A copy of the Government’s legislation can be viewed online:


Advice and Guidance for Transport Service Providers
The Equality Commission provides information and advice on the duties on transport providers and rights for disabled transport service users.  For more information please contact us on 028 90500600 or email us

Training sessions can be provided, on request, for group bookings, subject to sufficient numbers and feasibility. For further information, please email

The Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee (IMTAC)
IMTAC is a committee of disabled people, older people and key transport professionals who advise the Government and organisations in Northern Ireland on issues that affect the mobility of older people and disabled people. Further information is available at


Publications for Transport Service Providers
The Equality Commission´s Code of Practice on the Provision and Use of Transport Vehicles, provides guidance for transport providers, advisors and disabled people on the scope of the regulations.

Disability Transport Code of Practice

 Code of Practice - Provision and use of transport vehicles
 (PDF 225Kb, 72pages)

  The Code is also available in:

  - Braille
  - Large print
  - Easyread 
  - Audio versions

Short Guides
A series of short guides for transport service providers is also available:


To request copies of any of the above publications, or if you would like them in a different format such as braille contact us at or telephone 028 90500600

The Law
Download a copy of the legislation (PDF, 52kb):



Print All