A SHEFFIELD law firm has launched a campaign to force firms running public transport services to change the way they treat disabled passengers.
Fountain Precinct-based disability discrimination specialist Unity Law is already taking legal action against one bus company - Arriva Buses in the North East, alleging discrimination which breaches the Equality Act.
Now, it has launched the A2BForAll campaign and secured backing from disability rights campaigner and paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and a number of leading UK disability charities, including the Disability Alliance and Transport for all.
Unity Law claims disabled passengers are being confronted with regular abuse, discrimination and ignorance, which is forcing them off public transport.
Research carried out by the lawyers found that just over a half of people with a disability have felt discriminated against when trying to use public transport and more than a third say they are victims of regular discriminatory behaviour.
More than three out of four say they are prevented from getting on and off transport – in almost half of the cases because the vehicle, most often a bus, would not stop to let them get off.
More than half of those surveyed had felt forced to find other ways to travel because of the treatment they received, and more than a quarter have stopped using public transport altogether because of the discrimination and difficulties they face.
A2BforAll wants a Regulator to be set up, funded by the public transport sector, to ensure staff dealing with the public receive compulsory and continuing training and to maintain a central register of complaints which would be used when awarding, regulating and renewing franchises.
Unity Law’s managing partner, Chris Fry, said: “Taking legal action is not about getting monetary compensation. It’s about the value that comes from being free to travel independently.
“To remove the fear and stress of simply getting from A to B. To be able to get to work, to see friends, to make it to health appointments without being harassed, ignored, forgotten or abused.”
Baroness Grey-Thompson added: “There is a clear problem here. We need lasting change that will address the endemic abuse and discrimination and that disabled people are facing every day. For me, getting from A to B is a basic right for everyone. It’s the key to an independent life. If we don’t address these issues we are denying disabled people that right.”