A Liberal Democrat peer says she was left at a bus stop in the rain because a driver allegedly refused to let her on, saying the designated wheelchair space was already occupied by a pushchair.
Sal Brinton, who is president of the Lib Dems, told BuzzFeed News that despite telling the driver that wheelchair users had priority over buggies, she was still denied entry. She said the experience made her feel "angry" and irrelevant".
The incident, which took place on Monday, comes seven months after the Supreme Court ruled that wheelchairs must be given priority over pushchairs. It is the latest in a series of examples where the ruling has not been upheld.
"I couldn't get on the bus because he hadn't done the ramp, but I pointed at the sign in the wheelchair space that said wheelchairs are a priority and he just said, 'I can't do it, I won't ask her [to move]' and then he drove way," Brinton said.
"It made me extremely angry because it was also wet – just beginning to rain – and I had been waiting for buses for a while as there was some delay. It was just as if I was irrelevant. The bus was empty – there was hardly anybody in it."
Last month, wheelchair user Nina Grant told BuzzFeed News she was refused access to a bus just two days after the ruling. Charity Transport for All said its free advice line hears shocking cases of wheelchair users being denied access to the bus almost every day.
BuzzFeed News understands that Transport for London is in the process of introducing a leaflet to drivers that includes a summary of the judgment and what it means for them.
TfL has also displayed posters in bus garages and sent details of the rulings through its bus staff intranets. It also plans to introduce two new prerecorded iBus announcements to help ensure the verdict is enforced.
The announcements will state: "A customer needs the wheelchair priority area. Please make space."
If the customer does not move, a second message will say: "Customers are required to make space for a wheelchair user. This bus will wait while this happens."
However Brinton, who had a similar experience with a bus driver in 2015, said the message is not getting through.
She is backing calls for legislation that allows bus drivers to refuse to move the bus if a parent refuses to move their buggy for a wheelchair user and told BuzzFeed News she will be raising the issue with the transport minister.
"When you get treated like that most of us just ignore it because complaining just takes too long and takes too much out of your life," she said.
"I was really cross that yet again wheelchair users are being treated as second-class citizens, when the signs in front of the bus driver say that wheelchair users should be given priority."
Brinton continued: "It's very simple: All they've got to do is to change the bus drivers regulations [to empower] the bus drivers to refuse to move the bus until the parent moves. It's what they do with people who are drunk, with people who are throwing food around the bus, but at the moment they can't do it to buggy users."
In a statement Claire Mann, TfL’s director of bus operations, said she was sorry to hear about Brinton's experience and confirmed that an investigation into the incident would be launched.
“It is essential wheelchair users are given priority over buggies on buses and clearly something has gone wrong here. We will investigate this with the bus company immediately," she said.
“We know that there is much more to do to make our services more accessible to everyone and we welcome any feedback which will help us to improve.”
Fiona Rutherford is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Fiona Rutherford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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