About published advice on the Reasonable Access website
This page is where we at Reasonable Access will publish legal advice that our community members have obtained from a qualified legal professional (barrister, solicitor, lawyer). Advice published here is shared with the full permission of the person who commissioned the advice.
The purpose of the advice published here is to help other people who would like to see how legal professionals summarise the general principles of the law or who may be able to use these examples to support activism and campaigning around similar situations. If you cite these examples, you should use the unedited files and you are encouraged to cite the appropriate part of this website so your reader can see the original that we host.
Using the advice published here is at your own risk. We at Reasonable Access cannot provide further elaboration or “advice on the advice”.
Advice currently published
Use of a wheelchair or running frame in open road race events (2021)
Advice: In the matter of Wheelchair athletes and the UKA Rules for Competition 2020-22 [Word docx document] 12th June 2021.
Until recently, UK Athletics had a rule which banned wheelchair users and frame runner users from open road races.
Esther Loukin (nee Leighton) commissioned this legal advice from barristers Stephen Broach and Eleanor Leydon. Esther used this advice to assist her to get UK Athletics to change their rule – which worked!. Esther is is looking forward to taking part in open road races in the not too distant future.
Esther’s legal advice suggests that it is likely that excluding disabled wheelchair and running frame users from open road races is discriminatory. It explains in detail the laws and authorities on direct and indirect discrimination in this area; saying that it may be direct discrimination, but if not, then it is an example of indirect discrimination. The advice also contains arguments about it being a likely failure to make reasonable adjustments.
Accessibility of Rail Replacement Bus Services (2019)
Advice: In the Matter of Replacement Bus Services and the Public Services Vehicle Accessibility Regulations [Word docx document] 15th January 2019.
When trains cannot run, railway companies will often provide ‘rail replacement bus services’ to transport passengers. If these buses are not accessible to a wheelchair user, then the only option is for the wheelchair user is to wait often long periods for an accessible taxi to be found. Taxis have no toilets and can be unsafe or uncomfortable for a wheelchair user to travel in so are not a ‘cushy’ option.
Doug Paulley, a disabled wheelchair user (and trustee of Reasonable Access) is well known for his knowledge of arcane UK transport and disability rights law. Doug was the claimant in a Supreme Court case against First Bus about access to the bus’s wheelchair space. Based on knowledge Doug gained from this case, he did some research and believed rail replacement buses being inaccessible, was likely to be unlawful.
Doug is very tall at 6’7″ (just over 2m) and finds taxis very uncomfortable to travel in because the roof is usually not high enough so he has to sit with his neck bent at an uncomfortable angle. There are no toilet facilities (unless the taxi can stop at a services). Doug also finds drivers usually do not secure him and his wheelchair properly or safely using the seatbelts despite this being a legal requirement of the driver’s job. The wait for an accessible taxi can be very long, often information about the taxi requirements is lost and inaccessible taxis will repeatedly turn up instead. Sometimes there is no where warm or comfortable to wait for the taxi, especially at smaller stations or at night.
At this time, in 2018, the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) was consulting on revisions to their Disabled People’s Protection Policy guidance which are the legally enforceable minimum requirements that all train and station operators have to meet in order to conform to passengers’ accessibility needs. To support his consultation response, Doug decided to commission some legal advice from Cloisters barrister Catherine Casserley on about accessibility of rail replacement buses. As noted in paragraph 3, Doug’s own thorough research was noted and Ms Casserley’s advice confirmed Doug’s understanding that rail replacement buses should be accessible.
As Doug expected, when the consultation results and revised guidance were announced, the guidance did not include anything new about accessible rail replacement services – mostly just that accessible taxis were an option. Doug had already laid the groundwork to have a solicitor ready to support him to start the pre-action process for a Judicial Review against the ORR citing Ms Casserley’s advice. As part of this Judicial Review pre-legal process, the ORR commissioned their own legal advice about the accessibility of rail replacement services from barrister Zoe Leventhal. Ms Leventhal’s advice confirmed that accessibility of rail replacement buses was indeed a legal requirement. As a result, the ORR amended the guidance further to include improvements to legally required accessibility requirements for train operating companies, bus suppliers, regulators and government.
The government reacted to this change in guidance to allow bus providers to apply for temporary exemptions to the accessibility requirements for some vehicles. While it is frustrating that the law continues to be unenforced, these exemptions are time limited. There has still been an increase in the number of ‘accessible’ coaches and buses on UK roads which includes rail replacement and ‘home to school services’ – and this should continue as exemptions are phased out. During the exemption periods, rail replacement buses services are only permitted to be an inaccessible vehicle if the train company can confirm they have tried and failed to obtain accessible buses for the service (at present they are not asked for proof).
Doug believes a key factor in his success in forcing this change was having written barrister’s advice which gave him the confidence to start pre-legal proceedings when his consultation response and advice submission was initially ignored.