Victory in ‘wheelchair v buggy’ bus case

Published Date
Victoria Wright
Care & Support

Today (18 January) the Supreme Court handed down their judgement on the case of wheelchair user, Doug Paulley (pictured). Mr Paulley sued FirstGroup after their bus driver left him at a bus stop rather than requiring a parent with a buggy to vacate the designated wheelchair space.

Mr Paulley argued that FirstGroup’s “requesting, not requiring” policy was discriminatory.

After a four-year battle through the courts, the Supreme Court have allowed the appeal but to a limited extent.

It has ruled that the policy of requiring a driver to ‘request’ a non-wheelchair user to vacate the space without taking any further steps was unjustified.

Therefore bus companies must take further steps to pressurise the non-wheelchair user to vacate the space, depending on whether it is reasonable to do so under the circumstances.

Muscular Dystrophy UK has been campaigning to improve access to public transport for disabled people for many years. We know from our End of the Line report just how difficult it is for disabled people to travel on public transport.

So we are delighted that the Supreme Court has recognised that bus companies must ensure their policies sufficiently meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, and give priority to wheelchair users.

Nic Bungay, Director of Campaigns, Care and Information at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said:

Today’s ruling sets a crucial legal precedent for wheelchair users to have the space on buses they rightfully deserve.


While bus companies now clearly need to do more, we need further clarity – and potentially a change to the law – in order for everyone to understand what their rights and responsibilities are.


Disabled people aren’t looking to cause problems, but unlike a buggy, you can’t fold up most wheelchairs. We work with lots of disabled parents who know all too well that buggy users shouldn’t be pitted against wheelchair users.


This is a good move forward, and other transport companies need to follow suit and remove the barriers that continue to make it so difficult for wheelchair users to board vehicles, find accessible toilets on trains and book taxis.


Doug has been courageous in fighting for the rights of all disabled people, although the fact the case has gone all the way to the Supreme Court shows how hard-fought disabled rights continue to be.

Watch our supporters Romina Puma and Zoe Hallam comment on this case on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme (1 hour 12 minutes in).

Join the debate

What are your thoughts on this case? Do you find it difficult to use public transport? We want to know about your experiences, so share your stories by joining in the discussion on Muscular Dystrophy UK’s Facebook page.

Keep in touch