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Unsure of your equality rights or the law? We can provide advice and assistance for people who feel they have been discriminated against.


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Disability Discrimination Act and Transport Services

Disability activists at Stormont
People with disabilities have protection when using transport services. The Disability Discrimination Act (1995) makes it unlawful for service providers to treat disabled people less favourably than someone without a disability.

Transport service providers must look at, and make reasonable adjustments, to any policies, procedures or practices that might make access to their service impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people.

The following transport service providers are subject to the law:



What do the regulations say?

When serving people with disabilities transport providers must not:


  • refuse to provide any service (or deliberately fail to provide a service) which they offer or provide to members of the public
  • provide a service of a lower standard or in a worse manner
  • provide a service on worse terms


Transport providers are also under a legal duty to make alterations (known as reasonable adjustments) to their existing practices to ensure that their services are accessible to disabled people.

Air and sea travel

The Disability Discrimination Act covers some limited aspects in relation to air and ferry travel.  However EU regulations provide wider protection for disabled people when travelling by air or ferry.


European regulations on Rights to accessible air and ferry travel

Regulation (EU) No 1107/2006 and Regulation (EU) No. 1177/2010 require airlines and most ferry ports and ferries to offer assistance to passengers with a disability or reduced mobility (PRM).  A person may have reduced mobility because of an illness, an age related condition or a temporary injury, for example a broken leg.  The assistance is provided to ensure that air and ferry travel is as convenient for passengers with a disability or reduced mobility as it is for passengers without.

These EU regulations mean that ferry companies, ports and the managing bodies of airports have to provide services that enable disabled passengers to board, and disembark on their journeys as well as assist them in the transit between flights in the case of air travel.

The regulations are enforced by the Consumer Council for NI. Further guidance is available on their website:

• Access to Air Travel - A guide for passengers with a disability and less mobile passengers (pdf)
• Access to Ferry Travel - A guide for passengers with a disability and less mobile passengers (pdf)


examples - refusal of service

Refusal of service

A transport provider cannot refuse to provide (or deliberately not provide) a service to a disabled person which it offers to other people, unless the refusal (or non-provision) can be justified.  For further information see page 29 of the Code of Practice (pdf)


Examples of refusal of service:

  • A bus tour operator offers sightseeing bus tours to the public. However, one prospective passenger is refused access to the tour because he has cerebral palsy.  Despite explaining that he has this condition, the bus tour operator will not allow him to join the tour. No other passenger is refused access.  This would amount to less favourable treatment for a reason related to disability and, unless the bus tour operator can justify its actions, would be an unlawful refusal of service contrary to the Disability Discrimination Act.
  • Without making further enquiries or considering the issues involved, a vehicle rental operator refuses to hire a vehicle to a disabled person, arguing that a nearby larger vehicle rental operator can offer a better service to disabled people.  This is a refusal of service for a reason related to a disability and is likely to be unlawful.
  • A licensed taxi driver who stops at a taxi rank pretends not to see a visually impaired person with a long cane who is clearly at the front of the queue, but instead offers service to the next person waiting in line. This is a non-provision of a service and is likely to be unlawful.
  • A disabled person with a learning disability wishes to travel on an express coach.  The coach driver pretends that all seats are taken in order to turn away the disabled passenger because he thinks that the disabled person will upset other passengers because of his disability. This is likely to be unlawful.

examples - service of a lower standard or in a worse manner

Service of a lower standard or in a worse manner

A transport provider must not offer a disabled person a lower standard of service than it offers other people or serve a disabled person in a worse manner, without justification. A lower standard of service might include harassment of a disabled customer or being offhand or rude towards them.  For further information see page 30 of the Code of Practice (pdf)


Examples of service of a lower standard / in a worse manner:

  • A disabled person has booked a taxi.  When the taxi arrives, the driver asks the disabled passenger to pay the journey fare in advance, something which he would not require from other passengers.  This is likely to be unlawful.
  • A breakdown recovery operator addresses a customer with a mobility impairment in derogatory terms related to their disability. This is likely to be unlawful.

examples - service on worse terms

Service on worse terms

A transport provider should not provide a service to a disabled person on terms which are worse than the terms offered to other people, without justification.  Worse terms include charging more for services or imposing extra conditions for using a service.  For further information see page 31 of the Code of Practice (pdf)


Examples of service on worse terms:

  • A taxi service charges a wheelchair user person more for hiring an accessible taxi than a non disabled person hiring the same vehicle.
  • A disabled person has booked a taxi.  When the taxi arrives, the driver asks the disabled passenger to pay the journey fare in advance, something which he would not require from other passengers.  This is likely to be unlawful.
  • 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 taxi driver with an accessible seven seat vehicle charges all users a higher fare than that charged by drivers of five seat vehicles, regardless of whether they have a disability.  This is likely to be within the law as the driver is not treating people with a disability differently.

examples - failing to make reasonable adjustments

Failing to make reasonable adjustments

A transport service provider fails to make a reasonable adjustment if that failure has the effect of making it impossible or unreasonably difficult for the disabled person to make use of the service and they cannot show that the failure is justified.  For further information see page 33 of the Code of Practice (pdf)


Reasonable adjustments can include providing auxiliary aids, adapting a policy or taking steps ro overcome barriers disabled people face when trying to access a service.


Examples of making a reasonable adjustment:

  • A taxi driver has maps of the local area onboard for use by hearing impaired passengers so that he can show the passengers where they are going.  He also carries a pen and paper to write down any messages for hearing impaired passengers.  This would be a reasonable adjustment as he is providing an auxiliary aid to any disabled passengers that might use his taxi.
  • As part of general customer service information on its train services, a train operator indicates that if a passenger cannot access the cafe bar for a disability-related reason, they are welcome to an at-seat service and should ask a member of the onboard staff for assistance. This helps to ensure that the train buffet services are accessible to disabled people.
  • A tour company that runs coach tours is printing new leaflets and timetables.  It gets advice from a disability organisation and as a result it prints all of the materials in an accessible format and provides the timetable in Braille and audio tape upon request.  This means that a passenger with a visual or hearing impairment can access this service.  The company has anticipated the needs of passengers with visual or hearing impairments and has already taken all reasonable steps to ensure that they can access the tour.

Definition of disability

Definition of disability

If you meet the definition of disability in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) you are covered by the legislation. This is defined as:


“a physical or mental impairment which has substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”


Long-term means: lasting, or likely to last, at least 12 months.  Normal day-to-day activities include:

  • Mobility – moving from place to place
  • Manual dexterity – use of hands, wrists or fingers
  • Physical co-ordination
  • Continence
  • Ability to lift, carry or otherwise move ordinary objects
  • Speech, hearing or eyesight
  • Memory or ability to concentrate
  • Ability to learn or understand
  • Ability to recognise the risk of physical danger
  • Taking part in normal social interaction
  • Forming social relationships

Some disabilities may be visible, but others may not be immediately obvious, such as mental ill health or epilepsy.  The DDA also specifically covers anyone who has cancer, HIV or multiple sclerosis.


What can I do if I believe I have been discriminated against?

You can bring a claim against the transport provider in the County Court.  Court action must be brought within six months of the alleged discrimination.


Before legal proceedings have begun, it may be sensible to raise a complaint with the provider to see whether the issue can be determined to the satisfaction of both parties.  Even when legal proceedings have been brought, the provider may wish to attempt to settle the matter through discussion with the complainant.  Any discrimination may have been unintentional and the dispute may be capable of being resolved by negotiation.


The Equality Commission provides free advice for people who believe they may have been discriminated against.  In addition, it provides legal assistance with some cases.

Ask for advice
If you require information or advice please complete our online form. All information you submit is confidential – and if you wish to be contacted by us, please let us know the best way for you. You don’t have to share any personal information with us – we will not be able to identify you if that is your preference.

Make a discrimination complaint
We may be able to provide you with legal assistance. If you want to find out more, please use our discrimination complaint form (word doc) to tell us the nature of your discrimination complaint and whether it is related to your age, disability, gender, race, religious belief/political opinion or sexual orientation.

Tell us what happened and we will contact you to talk through your complaint further.

Training sessions on the disability transport regulations can be provided, on request, for group bookings, subject to sufficient numbers and feasibility. For further information, please contact us

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


Equality Commission NI
Alternatively, contact us:

Telephone: 028 90 500 600

Equality House
7-9 Shaftesbury Square
Belfast  BT2 7DP


Publications for Transport Users

Disability Transport Code of Practice

Code of Practice - Provision and use of transport vehicles
(pdf, 225kb, 72 pages, 94 pages)

The Code explains the changes in the law as a result of the new regulations which came into effect at the beginning of 2010. The Code provides guidance to transport providers, advisors and disabled people on the scope of the regulations.


Additional publications are also available

Audio Publication


Sign Language Videos

The following sign language videos explain the rights of people with disabilities when accessing transport services in Northern Ireland.

Part 1 (BSL) Avoiding disability discrimination in transport


Part 2 (BSL) Avoiding disability discrimination in transport

Part 3 (BSL) Avoiding disability discrimination in transport

Further Information

Further publications relating to the disability transport regulations are available on the transport service providers section of our website.

If you would like any of the the publications listed above in a different format such as braille, please contact us
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