The problems facing disabled people who try to use public transport have been highlighted in a report in the Observer newspaper.
Journalist Anna Tims reported how a 13-year-old boy who has a rare form of dwarfism was left stranded at the side of the road after a bus driver refused to let him board with his mobility scooter.
The article revealed that Logan Lewis, who lives near Aberystwyth, was a victim of a code of practice which was actually set up to help people who use mobility scooters. It added that Logan would be likely to face similar problems on the railway network.
Logan’s mother told the Observer that Logan and his friends were refused access to a bus to take them into Aberystwyth from the village where they live.
They discovered that the route operator, First Bus, has signed up to a voluntary code which requires mobility scooter users to undergo a training session to obtain a permit before they can board a bus. The website directs them to write to the company and an automated email response promises a reply within a fortnight. But four weeks later, Logan’s mum had heard nothing.
The newspaper reported that Logan’s ordeal exposes the hurdles still faced by those with mobility aids when accessing public transport: “Regulation and corporate policy changes have led to significant improvements in facilities and infrastructure over the last 10 years, but fragmented provision, poor training and unreformed attitudes can still leave passengers stranded.”
It added that the Mobility Scooter Code of Conduct was drawn up in 2011 to standardise the acceptance of scooters on buses: “Since 2017 all buses have to be accessible under the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations, but there is no legal requirement for them to carry mobility scooters. This has left users unable to predict whether a driver will allow them to board.”
With regard to rail journeys, the Observer reported: “From this year all trains must be accessible to wheelchairs, but not mobility scooters. While rail operators accept smaller models, some companies insist on permits, some require them to be folded down and stowed away.”
First Bus is reported to have “reacted swiftly” after the Observer’s intervention, allocating a dedicated bus and driver to assess Logan and his scooter, issue a permit on the spot and drive him home.
The company said: “Although this was very much an isolated incident, we’ve launched an investigation to identify any internal opportunities to improve our processes. We have reminded drivers of the correct procedures to follow.”
James Taylor, head of policy and campaigns at Scope, said the charity is campaigning for a passenger charter to clarify the rights of disabled passengers.
He said: “We know many disabled people continue to face barriers, outdated attitudes and difficulty getting hold of reliable information when they want to travel. Our research has found one in three disabled people have been stopped from visiting certain places because of problems with public transport such as damage to mobility aids on planes, assistance failures on trains and unclear rules on whether wheelchairs users have priority over wheelchair spaces on buses.”