People with disabilities ‘second-class’ citizens when it comes to public transport

People with disabilities are “second-class citizens” when it comes to public transport, according to one advocacy group which criticised a ruling that it is “reasonable” to expect wheelchair users will give more than 24 hours’ notice if they plan on taking a bus.

The Workplace Relations Commission this week published its ruling in a case where it dismissed a claim of discrimination against Bus Éireann taken by a wheelchair user who was told he could not access a bus because the driver did not know how to operate the lift.

Karol Doherty, from Donegal, had taken the case against Bus Éireann after he was initially refused access to the Letterkenny to Dublin bus on April 28, 2014.

Mr Doherty had received word of a hospital appointment which required him to travel to Dublin immediately.

While he eventually managed to gain access to the bus with the assistance of another Bus Éireann employee, Mr Doherty maintained that Bus Éireann’s failure to ensure the bus was accessible “represented discrimination on the provision of a service contrary to the Equal Status Acts”.

In its response, Bus Éireann said “it will ensure that disabled passengers will have access to a fully accessible vehicle subject to their being given 24 hours’ notice given of intention to travel”.

The adjudication officer dismissed the case and found that Bus Éireann’s requirement for 24 hours’ notice “is reasonable and proportionate and fulfils the objective of ready accessibility for the generality of passengers with a disability who need to avail of the service.”

The Disability Federation of Ireland said: “It highlights the second-class citizenship endured by people with disabilities while we wait for the government to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities.”


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