A bus company has turned back the clock on access by introducing new buses that will make it harder for wheelchair-users to use public transport, says a leading disabled campaigner.
Lothian Buses took the decision to ban non-folding buggies from its vehicles in 2008 so the accessible spaces could be used by wheelchair-users, which it said at the time was a reasonable adjustment under the Disability Discrimination Act.
It scrapped the ban four years later – following years of protests from parents – after introducing more than 250 new buses with dedicated spaces for both buggies and wheelchairs, although passengers with buggies still had to vacate spaces for wheelchair-users if required.
But the company, which provides services to Edinburgh and the surrounding areas, has now announced that it will be introducing new double-decker buses, with extra capacity, audio-visual announcements, wi-fi and high-backed seating.
But the new buses will only have one accessible space, with no separate area for buggies.
Campaigners and politicians have warned that the new vehicles risk shutting both disabled people and parents with young children out of central Edinburgh.
Transport access campaigner Doug Paulley (pictured), who himself secured a Supreme Court victory over another bus company’s failure to ensure the rights of wheelchair-users to use its services, said he was “very concerned about the change in Lothian’s attitude and approach”.
He said: “They know there is a known severe problem of conflict for the wheelchair space, as evidenced by their previous policy and the parents’ campaign.
“They’ve gone from a bastion of good accessibility practice which I and others held up to recalcitrant organisations, to a lazy position of reinstating conditions causing such conflict, without thinking the issues through.
“Disabled people will suffer as a result: all the repeated and known problems of conflict with non-wheelchair users, and the lock-on confidence problems, conflict and unpleasantness this engenders. All of which is totally unnecessary. They are going backwards.
“Their lack of knowledge, care and competence is demonstrated succinctly by their claim that the buses are ‘DDA compliant’ when the Disability Discrimination Act hasn’t existed for eight years and when they have previously acknowledged that a vehicle’s physical compliance with the accessibility regulations is not enough on its own to ensure wheelchair users have reliable and hassle-free access to buses.”
Lothian Buses had failed to comment by 10 am this morning (Thursday).
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