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Want to stay on the right side of the law? We support businesses and public authorities and help them to promote good practice.

Vehicle rental

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Vehicle rental operators  - Avoid disability discrimination

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

Vehicle rental 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 vehicle rental 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.


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 hire or rental vehicle?

The law defines hire or rental vehicles as vehicles up to a certain size which are hired out by a person who does so in the course of a business.

They are:


  • Vehicles constructed to carry passengers, with no more than eight seats in addition to the driver´s seat;
  • Vehicles constructed to carry passengers, with more than eight seats in addition to the driver´s seat, and with a maximum weight of 5 tonnes; and
  • Vehicles constructed to carry goods, with a maximum weight of 3.5 tonnes
  • In the case of a service offered in relation to the provision or use of the type of rental vehicle descibed in the first bullet point above, a transport provider also has a duty to:
  • overcome a physical feature which makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of this service, by:
  • removing the feature; or
  • altering it; or
  • providing a reasonable means of avoiding it; or
  • providing a reasonable alternative method of making the service available.

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 rental service provider:


  • A vehicle rental operator charges a disabled person more than a non disabled person for hiring a car as they assume that the disabled person is more likely to have a car accident. The vehicle rental operator is treating a disabled person less favourably because of their disability. If, however, the operator can show that they are charging the disabled person extra because the person has had a number of accidents in a short period of time, they may be able to justify charging more. This would not be discrimination as the operator is levying an extra cost because of the person’s driving record and not their disability.
  • A deaf customer with an assistance dog phones a vehicle rental company to rent a car. The vehicle rental operator has a policy of adding additional charges to clean a car if a dog has been on board. The customer tries to explain to the company that they have an assistance dog because they are deaf but the charge is added regardless. The vehicle rental operator has failed to make a reasonable adjustment for the disabled customer which may amount to discrimination.
  • As part of the vehicle hire process a rental operator at an airport sends all of their customers from the booking desk to find their car themselves in the car park, accompanied by a map. The car park at the airport is not wheelchair accessible and as a result a wheelchair user can not access their hire car. The staff at the desk should arrange for the car to be brought to the front of the airport building which is accessible so that a wheelchair user can access the car. This would be making a 'reasonable adjustment'.

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):



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