In what we are terming the ‘Grant Reforms’, 34 year old Nina Grant from London has successfully persuaded transport company Arriva to build on the Paulley Principles established by leading Disability Rights Campaigner Doug Paulley who won the Supreme Court case against First buses in 2017 which established that First Come First Served Policies to wheelchair spaces on buses were discriminatory.
Despite the Paulley case in 2017, Nina who has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and uses a wheelchair to facilitate her independence has regularly been left curbside by bus drivers meaning that she was regularly late for appointments.
Nina managed to obtain CCTV from onboard cameras which proved that one driver failed to even open the doors before driving off. The Driver explained that because there were buggies in the wheelchair space, there was no point in opening the doors; the parents wouldn’t move. He simply drove on.Her challenge was to the extent by which the ‘Paulley Principle’ was being applied to help disabled passengers using wheelchairs. The Equality & Human Rights Commission stepped in to assist her case under the Transport Project and after round table discussions with Arriva’s team, Nina supported by Chris Fry and Cathy Casserley (Cloisters Chambers) secured a Court Order by Consent which has signalled a significant commitment to holding drivers to account.
With immediate effect, Arriva has agreed:
- To improve accessibility for disabled passengers;
- Every induction for a Driver shall include comprehensive Mandatory training on the Equality Act and the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers;
- Every Driver shall be required to undertake refresher training in relation to the above and shall be assessed to a minimum competency standard, a record to be maintained on each Driver’s personnel file. Such training shall form part of each driver’s mandatory CPC training regime.
- Should a Driver fail to reach the Competency Standard as specified at above, the Driver shall not be permitted to drive pending successful resolution of the training course.
- At the end of each shift, every Driver shall be required to complete and file a record of each occasion when during their shift, access has been refused to a wheelchair user. Failure to do so will give rise to an investigation in respect of that Driver, and where appropriate, disciplinary action.
Chris Fry, Solicitor for Nina expressed his satisfaction with the settlement by saying, “This agreement shows that Arriva is committed to tackling the ‘Garage Culture’ where drivers believe that there’s simply no point in challenging people to move from the wheelchair space. There needs to be a way for bus companies to find out what’s happening at street level and to better support drivers. This mediated outcome shows what can be achieved without expensive and lengthy litigation.”
Nina says, “This case was all about accountability to disabled passengers. I hope that others will benefit from this Court Order which binds Arriva to what is essentially a code of practice affecting their own policing of the need for priority for disabled passengers to have priority access to the wheelchair space. Drivers need to know that their behaviour matters and will be scrutinised at the depot. I am grateful to the EHRC for their support in bringing this case. Without their help I could not have taken the risk of bringing the claim.”
Chief Executive of the Equality & Human Rights Committee, Rebecca Hilsenrath acknowledged the success by saying,
“Equal access to transport is still a very major issue for disabled passengers, despite the progress made over the recent years . We expect all bus companies to take proactive steps so access to wheelchair spaces becomes a reality for disabled passengers, improving the everyday lives of disabled people for the long term.”
We hope that you will be able to use Nina’s case when travelling with Arriva, and if you find that these reforms have not been applied feel free to contact us and we will help with enforcement.