I’ll get to the nitty gritty first:
I’m suing a bus company because their repeated lack of enforcing the wheelchair space is making me angry, especially after January’s Supreme Court declaration that bus drivers need to do more to ensure wheelchair users can board their buses. After January things in general got a tiny bit better, and then slowly reverted back to how it used to be – and then it got worse on one route that I use several times a week! Any instance where access gets worse rather than better, in my opinion, needs immediate attention. Since the spring, I have sent numerous complaints to the bus company in question, and each time I get the same response – “we will investigate the driver if we can identify them”, but of course I am not allowed to know the outcome of the investigation. But whatever has happened in said investigations, I see no overall improvement.
The company I am taking to court is based in London. TFL bus drivers can do three things when a parent with buggy refuses to move from the wheelchair space of their own volition. They can play an automated announcement requesting that the space is cleared for a wheelchair user; they can leave their cab to ask the parent/caregiver to fold the buggy; lastly, they can offer a transfer ticket for free boarding on the next bus if folding the buggy is either not an option or not something they want to do. In the numerous instances where I was not permitted to board the bus this year, including four times within two weeks, the most a driver did was to ask a parent to move but did not mention that the space was a priority space for wheelchairs, or offer a transfer ticket. I’ve even had multiple bus drivers claim that having two buggies on at once was an exception and that they couldn’t do anything if that was the case.
Despite this, when I am already on board a bus, drivers have no problem letting buggies on to push into my feet and ankles, block mine and others’ exit, or to huff at me when they find they have to fold their giant buggy up because I have unexpectedly occupied the wheelchair space with a wheelchair. It seems like there is a massively uneven system at work, and, by forcing a bus company to address this in court, I hope to further the rights of wheelchair users on buses and public transport.
Lastly, I’m doing this for the wheelchair users I know who are too scared to take buses on their own because they don’t feel that the bus drivers, companies, nor the other passengers have their backs. They feel, unsurprisingly, that they are seen as a nuisance, even though many bus companies have clearly marked priority wheelchair spaces. It’s the co-opting of these spaces by people who then refuse to move or make a big fuss over it which makes us feel that way. I’m doing this because we deserve to use the spaces that disabled people previously fought so hard for.
[I have checked with my legal team, and I’m okay to talk about this case on the internet as long as I don’t name the bus company in question.]