Frustration over family bus ban court defeat


newslatestA disabled dad has spoken of his frustration and anger after a court told him a company was not discriminating by refusing to allow him to travel with his twin babies on a bus.

Activist Adam Lotun wanted the courts to rule that the bus company London United (LU) was breaking the law by refusing to allow him to travel in his wheelchair with twins Tehya and Tazanna in their double buggy, on 28 January 2012.

But the county court in London has ruled that he was not discriminated against by the company, after LU’s health and safety officer argued that the buggy and wheelchair took up too much space and therefore created a health and safety issue.

The ruling has drawn widespread condemnation from other disabled campaigners, who described it as “disgusting”, “terrible”, “appalling” and “awful”.

One said the company should pay for Lotun to take taxis with the twins if it was not able to accommodate him on its buses.

Another suggested it was a breach of his right to a family life under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Several visitors to Lotun’s Facebook page advised him to appeal the decision, although that is unlikely for financial reasons.

The incident in Surbiton happened when the twins were 10 months old.

Lotun was allowed on the bus, but when his wife Lindsay tried to board with the twins in their double buggy (one seat in front of the other, rather than side-by-side), they were told by the driver that they were not allowed on because the bus already had a wheelchair-user.

Lotun said: “He refused to listen to arguments that we were travelling as a family or that we had travelled together previously on this bus route.”

The driver told them: “I don’t make the rules.”

Lotun said the incident showed that bus operators were ignoring the Transport for London “red book”, which gives instructions on access and equality and how to board a wheelchair-user.

But the bus company argued that, in order for both the wheelchair and buggy to fit in the wheelchair area, the front part of the buggy had to be pushed underneath the wheelchair, wedging them both into the space.

LU claimed the driver had been concerned that it would take time to remove the buggy and wheelchair from the space and get them off the bus in an emergency.

The judge agreed and found that travelling with the front of the buggy pushed under Lotun’s wheelchair was not compliant with the red book, as it was not a safe way to travel.

Lotun, who was represented by the specialist disability discrimination legal firm Unity Law, said the incident “compounds the bigoted views that disabled people are not part of society, that they are second-class citizens and sub-human when it comes to equality”.

He added: “In short, as had been said to me to my face in the past, ‘Why did you risk having children when you were disabled and they could come out deformed as well?’

“Society does not care and will not care until it sees that action is being taken from the top, from central and local government, from major service-providers and well-known blue chip companies.”

A London United spokesman said: “As a company we strive to provide the best possible customer service to all of our passengers.

“Our driver’s judgement in dealing with the incident involving Mr Lotun was supported by the court and we believe that our driver acted appropriately and applied the correct procedures. We are therefore satisfied with the decision reached by the court.”

11 June 2014