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Bus-riding wheelchair user wins reasonable adjustments case in the Supreme Court

View profile for Kathryn Dooks
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Mr Doug Paulley, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, has won his widely publicised case at the Supreme Court regarding the use of the disabled wheelchair space on a bus operated by FirstGroup.

Mr Paulley wished to board the bus but could not due to the wheelchair space being occupied by a sleeping child in a pushchair. The driver asked the child's mother to vacate the space, but she refused. The driver took no further action. As a result Mr Paulley was refused entry to the bus and had to wait for the next bus. That one took him to the wrong side of the city and delayed him by an hour. His initial win at the county court was successfully appealed by FirstGroup in the Court of Appeal.  Mr Paulley subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court and won his case.

The Supreme Court found that FirstGroup's policy of requiring a driver to simply request a non-wheelchair user to vacate the space without taking any further steps did not satisfy the duty to make reasonable adjustments. The Court ruled that drivers must “require and pressurise”, going as far as they feel reasonable in the circumstances to insist that the space is vacated.

In this case the Supreme Court considered the same legal duty which applies to employers.  However, the facts of the case did highlight a contrast between what can reasonably be expected of an employer and what can reasonably be expected of a provider of public services.  First Group had limited means to compel an uncooperative passenger to vacate the wheelchair space, whilst an employer can require an employee to comply with any reasonable adjustments put in place due to the greater degree of control that it has over its employees.

In Other News: The BBC has reported that, according to the Office for National Statistics, UK unemployment fell by 52,000 to 1.6 million in the three months to November 2016 - the lowest level for more than a decade.  See the report here.

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