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In the News - Wheelchairs, Buses, Football, and Parking

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In the News - Wheelchairs, Buses, Football, and Parking

Disability access, wheelchairs, and legislation have all been featured in the news in the last couple of weeks. Here's a quick roundup of the main stories. 

Wheelchairs vs Buggies

Wheelchair user Doug Paulley won his case in the Supreme Court, after being unable to use a bus. The case started in 2012, when Mr. Paulley was refused access to a FirstGroup bus, because a passenger refused to move her pushchair from the accessible space usually reserved for wheelchairs. 

The case argued that the policy of the bus company, to "request but not require" passengers to move out of the accessible space, was discriminatory. The case has been through a number of courts since 2012, and this week the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Mr. Paulley's stance that simply making a request and taking no further action was not enough. 

In practice, the outcome of the case is that bus drivers will now have to do more to accommodate wheelchair users, however they will not be required to remove customers who refuse to make space. The Minister for Disabled People, Work, and Health, Penny Mordaunt, has said she will be talking to the Department of Transport to ensure the ruling becomes a reality. 

Sports Clubs Lacking in Accessibility

A report published by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee states that sports clubs have not done enough to cater to fans with disabilities. While the report commends the efforts made by many football clubs, county cricket clubs, and rugby league and union clubs, they highlight the Premier League as a particular problem. 

The report finds it "completely unacceptable" that so little has been done by a number of Premier League clubs, that they are some of the richest sporting organisations in the UK, and that many have failed to provide even basic adaptations in over 20 years. 

Though the Premier League does have the power to impose fines on clubs who fail to comply with accessibility requirements, the report remained unconvinced of the likelihood of that transpiring. The Chairman of the Committee behind the report commented that "The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has told us that it is minded to start legal proceedings against clubs that continue to flout the law. We support them in this."

There are some clubs who provide excellent access to disabled fans, however - this Euan's Guide post contains a round-up of the highest rated stadia, including St Mary's, Anfield, and the Etihad. 

Smartphones and Parking

A new project called "SIMON" is being piloted in Reading, and may become a real asset to drivers with disability parking permits. A smartphone app helps drivers locate empty Blue Badge spaces. It's currently working in 70 of Reading's car parks, and uses sensors in the spaces to identify which are vacant, sending this information as a notification to motorists looking for disabled bays nearby. 

The trial is expected to collect feedback for the next couple of months, which will be analysed by April 2017. If it's a success, hopefully we'll see the project rolled out to more towns and cities - there are trials going on in Spain, Italy, and Portugal too.

Blue Badge Changes, NI

Reported a couple of months ago now, but in case you missed it, the BBC reported on an upcoming review of the renewal process for Blue Badge holders in Northern Ireland.

The Infrastructure Minister, Chris Hazzard, announced the consultation, which will look at the renewal process and fees, and is intended to produce a "simpler, more accessible application for applicants with life-long mobility issues." 

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