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Only one wheelchair per bus

There is lots in the press about the two wheelchair users who were denied bus access on the same bus. The two boys were out on a trip with their respective carers and had made a trip together on the same bus from  Gosport to do some shopping in Portsmouth.

The two brothers Travis and Braydon McDowell live with epilepsy and cerebral palsy and are used to spending time together including travelling together but were advised by as many as 7 bus drivers that for reasons of health and safety they were not permitted to travel on the same bus at the same time. Father, Robert McDowell, says his sons have used First bus services near their home in Gosport frequently and could not understand why the policy seemed to be different across the water. Mr Mcdowel also added that sons need to have two carers present when they go out in order to meet their complex needs, so it wasn't suitable for them to split up.

It transpires that the first outward journey should not have been allowed as it is a matter of the law to guard safety of the wheelchair users that advises only one wheelchair per vehicle at any one point in time and that this is due to the fact the bus can only safely accommodate one wheelchair, as quoted by DERVLA MCKAY, FIRST GENERAL MANAGER:

"So the reason there is one space is because there is a backrest. That backrest actually prevents the user from having any spinal injuries, any whiplash or indeed the chair tipping over in the event of an emergency incident happening on the vehicle".

The bus company have also issued a new brief to its drivers to advise them on how best to deal with situations like this so that any disruption to wheelchair users and the other bus users is minimised and all is understood. They also spoke with the McDowell family to explain the initial confusion and the reasoning behind the wheelchair ruling.

Scope the disability charity have said that bus companies ought to make efforts to communicate better with disabled users including wheelchair users and stated that there was some inconsistency in how things were dealt with. Scope campaign manager Rosemary Frazer says:

"I think we need to have larger spaces available on buses that can accommodate two wheelchairs, or a wheelchair and a buggy. We really need to look into the design of future buses and think about how we can do it better."

Having looked in to this a bit closer we have found that the bus companies are permitted to make changes so that they can safely transport more than one wheelchair simultaneously if they so wish and can choose to provide further space for additional wheelchairs.

In a statement the Department for Transport said it is vital that all people have access to all public transport.

Single-decker buses must have at least one wheelchair space on board, and proper boarding facilities. Operators may choose to provide further space for additional wheelchairs.

For many disabled people, positive engagement with bus drivers can be as important as the physical accessibility. Bus operators should equip their staff to provide a consistent and accessible service to disabled passengers, including ensuring that facilities for passengers in wheelchairs are used safely.

We are currently looking at measures to ensure bus drivers know what their obligations are with our Accessibility Action Plan. It which will identify steps to make transport work for everyone.

 

– DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT