There is some litigation going through the courts involving disabled access. A chap, Doug Paulley, tried to get on a bus with his wheelchair, but could not because a mother would not wake up her sleeping baby, take the infant out of its push chair, and fold it in order to allow Mr Paulley to put the his wheelchair on the bus. Mr Paulley was delayed by an hour and was so upset that he could not use a bus for a year and had lost so much confidence he felt he had to sue the bus company.
I have frequently been delayed by an hour on public transport, but never lost so much confidence that I felt that I had to sue anyone for the delay, and I find it difficult to understand how this litigation will help Mr Paulley regain his confidence.
Nevertheless, there is an issue that needs to be decided; who has precedence – wheelchair users or pushchair users?
Years ago the Parisian Metro designated certain seats for people with certain characteristics in an ordered priority. It was
The marked seats are reserved for the following people according to their priority rank:
- Those with war-related or military disabilities.
- Blind civilians.
- Those disabled at work.
- Infirm civilians who have difficulty standing.
- Pregnant women.
- People accompanied by children under 4.
- Infirm civilians not specified as having difficulty standing.
- People with a card certifying difficulty standing.
- People 75 and over.
Those were the rules and they were accepted by the Parisians. Of course, Mr Paulley would like to see that priority changed so that people with disabilities take precedence over disabled people having difficulty standing.
The issue has become one of discrimination involving people with disabilities; it may be such an issue legally, but in these matters the law should simply reflect good manners and Mr Paulley might wish to understand that if he gets on the bus after a woman with a sleeping infant he may have to be inconvenienced; that is not a question of discriminating against his disability. It is a question of recognising that all our resources, including public transport, are finite and when two equally deserving people wish to use the same resource, then it seems to me that first come first served will be the rough and only justice available. However, the Court of Appeal may have other views.