I recently enquired to travel with Just Go Holidays. This is a service which provides coach trips around the country, taking away the hassle of having to drive yourself, and it’s relatively cheap. Their brochure states clearly that wheelchair users have to negotiate the steps of the vehicle and have to see to the own wheelchair being stored etc.
I am a full time wheelchair user through paraplegia and so I enquired as to their services, explained that I am unable to negotiate the steps of the coach and asked what would the provision be for me? A reasonable request I thought. Not So! I was amazed when the respondent replied that I would be declined their services because I was unable to get out of my wheelchair as per their brochure. I asked ”could they perhaps have a reciprocal arrangement with another company who has a wheelchair lift’?’ given I couldn’t access the coach via the steps.
I think we have all encountered some sort of accessibility barriers and some we just accept and live with as part and parcel of this changing world. However, this really annoyed me because their representative was adamant that their company doesn’t have to provide me with a service to comply with the Equality Act 2010. I confess I felt the manner in which I was being spoken to by their representative was a key factor in being driven to address this issue and taking it further than I normally would.
Now for me, given that one can generally now access a standard bus service as a wheelchair user and travel within our town and cities, I find it quite ironic that companies offering a service provision of holiday travel around the UK like Just Go to non-disabled people can be in direct contravention of this fundamental principle of all persons being equal and getting the same provision of service despite the Equality Act 2010.
Having put the phone down, I ventured into some research and there is a massive loophole here where Just Go and others are actually right! On the continent, it seems fairly standard that coaches offer the provision of such services with a wheelchair lift but here in this modern world within the UK, this loophole is being exploited quite blatantly.
I have relayed my experience to my MP and asked her to question the Minister for Transport on the matter at the end of January. The reply confirmed that coaches have until 2020 to make adaptations required by the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations.
Given the recent publicity following the Supreme Court ruling on the Paulley vs First Bus case which ruled that it was ‘not enough to simply request’ the space be vacated for wheelchair users, I would have thought that this issue and the scope within the Equality Act 2010 for companies to exploit a loophole is a massive opportunity which should be addressed.
By John Nash
Editor’s note: Just Go did not reply to our request to comment. We note that their terms and conditions state: “You may not bring a pet or any other animal on one of our holidays.” and hope that this does not include assistance dogs.