Should wheelchairs be given priority over prams and pushchairs on public transport?

02 July 2014
Volume 22 · Issue 7

Two recent County Court cases have resulted in conflicting judgments over whether bus companies should give priority to wheelchair users over mothers with prams and pushchairs. The cases centred on whether a bus company's duties under the Equality Act 2010 required that they insist that mothers collapse their pushchair and vacate the space, even if the child is sleeping, when it is required by a wheelchair user or whether the space should be made available to both types of user on a first come first serve basis.

The Equality Act (2010) consolidated previous anti-discrimination laws and protects a person by making it unlawful to discriminate, harass or victimise them because of a protected characteristic. Protected characteristics under the Equality Act (2010), chapter 1 are:

  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy and maternity.
  • It can be seen that both disability and pregnancy and maternity are protected characteristics. A woman is protected from discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity and service providers, such as bus companies, will be seen as discriminating against a pregnant woman if they treat her unfavourably because of her pregnancy and if, within the period of 26 weeks from the date of birth, they treat her unfavourably because she has given birth (Equality Act, 2010; section 17). Regrettably, parliament restricted the protection from discrimination for maternity care to the first 26 weeks from the birth of the child. Unfavourable treatment of a woman when the child is older than 26 weeks will not be subject to the provisions of the Act unless another protected characteristic is engaged.

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