Last updated on October 18th, 2019 at 09:30 am
For many years coach and bus accessibility has been a concern for the countless wheelchair users and other disabled people who rely on public transport to get around. An essential part of independence, it’s vital that all public transport is accessible to everyone. Fortunately, the government is looking at ways to improve coach and bus accessibility with new legislation rolling out that will make ramps, priority seating and additional help a requirement for all.
Travelling by bus or coach in a wheelchair
The government is looking to make all buses and coaches accessible by 2020 thanks to the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PVSAR). Single and double-decker buses already have to be accessible to wheelchair users, while coaches will need to be accessible by 1st January 2020. Accessibility means that wheelchair users and other disabled passengers should be able to use this form of transport the same as everyone else, from purchasing a ticket (1) to using the vehicle itself (2).
1: Planning your bus or coach journey
A key requirement of the PVSAR is that wheelchair users shouldn’t have to book any further in advance than passengers who don’t. For coach operators that only take advanced bookings, this isn’t a problem, but many allow passengers to buy tickets on the same day and even at the point of getting on the coach if there is a ticket office. In these cases, wheelchair users should also be able to purchase their ticket and travel just like anyone else.
That means that if a wheelchair space is available, wheelchair users must be allowed to use it. This is true even if the wheelchair space is only available by moving or changing the coach seating or asking other passengers who are using the space but don’t need it to move to other available seats. This includes pushchairs or prams as the wheelchair user will take priority.
Unfortunately, at the moment this may not be the case with all coaches as they still have until 2020 to get accessible. For coaches that are already wheelchair accessible, the only exception is coaches that are already fully booked. If the service is completely full and the wheelchair space is being used by other passengers who have already booked, the existing passengers aren’t required to disembark to make the space available. You may also find you can’t if:
- Your chair is very heavy or very big (taking up a space – when you are in it – of more than 700 mm wide or 1200 mm long)
- You need to travel with your legs fully extended or the backrest reclined and there is not enough space on the vehicle to allow for this
2: Accessibility on buses and coaches
The second key requirement is being able to access the service itself. That means being able to safely board and travel on the bus or coach with a wheelchair. That means any bus or coach that is accessible needs to have the following:
- At least one space for a standard wheelchair
- A way for wheelchair users to board the vehicle
- A minimum number of priority seats for disabled passengers depending on the bus size
- Colour contrasting handrails and steps for the partially sighted
- Easy to push bells
- A way to display the route and destination
There are a few ways a bus or coach may help wheelchair users board, but the most common and by far the easiest is a wheelchair ramp. Larger buses or coaches may have a wheelchair ramp or lift installed into the bus, but what about smaller community buses where this might not be possible?
Fortunately, there are many multi-fold and portable wheelchair options available to help make any vehicle accessible even when space might be tight. A multi-fold or suitcase wheelchair ramp can be quickly and easily set-up and deployed for access, and then simply packed away when not in use. A simple rest-on connection means there is no complicated set-up required, and the multi-fold systems of today are easier than ever to operate, meaning this system is just as efficient as a built-in one.
Getting more help with buses or coaches
You can ask for assistance from the driver or conductor at any point, but there are now many local authorities that publish guides to help disabled travellers navigated the public transport system. Check with your own local authority or the council of the destination you are travelling to and ask what extra assistant they can offer. Some, for example, may even be able to provide assisted volunteers and other helpful extras.
What to do if you have a bad experience
If you’re unhappy with the access you received on a bus or coach service or even the treatment from staff, you should contact the operator or company immediately and follow their formal complaint procedure. You can also read our tips hips of enforcing The Equality Act 2010 which might help you handle a formal complaint procedure.
Looking to make your vehicle accessible? Contact our team today to find out more about our huge range of wheelchair ramps and how they could help you make the world a more accessible place.
In this video from TFL you can see some bus accessibility features in action.