This is one of the longest debates amongst parents and wheelchair users. I don’t drive and regularly get the bus into town, to university and to take my daughter to nursery and have encountered many problems not only for me as a mother, but for those who are wheelchair bound.
I live on a bus route where it is mainly older buses in use and these buses don’t have the larger space at the front for wheelchairs and steps to get on. On the rare occasion there is a new bus, there is always some sort of drama between passengers with conflicting opinions on the subject.
I think the most recent encounter was a few days ago. The last bus for the day arrived and there were about four of us with pushchairs. We all got on without folding our pushchairs as there was space and went on our way. A few stops down the line, a wheelchair user tried to get on. There was one mother in the wheelchair space who promptly folded her pushchair, picked up her daughter and took a seat else where, yet another mother refused to move saying why should she move when she was here first. It sparked an argument between a group of people on the bus about who should get priority.
On one hand, there is the parents point of view. It can be argued that children who are so young that they can’t stand, or walk or hold their own heads up, should be able to stay in their pram or pushchair and everyone else should move. There is also the argument that it’s just simply not safe, after all, if it’s a legal requirement for them to be in a car seat within a car, why is it safe for them to not be on a bus?
There is also the argument though, that wheelchair users have not chosen to be in a wheelchair. Why should they have to wait longer and be denied the space they are entitled to? There could also be an argument that they are being discriminated against due to their disability. Surely we can make their life a bit easier by helping them get to where they need to be.
At the moment, different bus companies have different regulations on the subject. My local company Stagecoach, have a sign on their buses stating that the space is designated for wheelchair users. If no wheelchair user requires the space, then parents may use the space for pushchairs but MUST MOVE if a wheelchair user gets on. The company First Bus has been in the news recently over a court case relating to this subject matter after a passenger was told to wait for the next bus as a mother refused to move from the wheelchair space. First Bus’s policy states that no one can be forced from their space/seat on the bus and that driver can ask them to move, but has no force to make them move. It relies on the person involved.
I always fold my pushchair down if a wheelchair user boards the bus, but I have had a one occasion where I have been taking up that space. I had one incident on the bus where a wheelchair user boarded the bus and the bus pulled out of the stop before I even had a chance to stand and move my pushchair. I told the person I didn’t feel save moving my five week old baby while the bus was moving and that I would move at the next stop. It just happened to be that no one got on for a couple of stops and the next one was mine, so I just got off. As I did, I had abuse shouted at me for being selfish and irresponsible when I thought I was being a responsible mother relating to my daughter’s safety.
I think there is a lot that needs to change on both sides of the situation. Wheelchair users need a space to fit their chairs safely, but I think there needs to be somewhere for pushchairs as taking a small baby out on the bus is sometimes not a safe option. As I have said, this is just my opinion.
Take a look at the following news report for the whole story involving First Bus. I’d love to hear from you all about what you think. Do you think the space should be given up, or do mothers have the right to use the space as well?
Until next time…