In the recent Supreme Court decision, First Group Plc v Paulley, a bus company was held to have failed in its duty, as a public service provider, to make reasonable adjustments when it requested that a non-disabled person vacate a designated wheelchair space but did not take steps to enforce this when she refused to move.
Mr Paulley, a wheelchair user, was unable to board a bus as a mother with a pram was using the designated wheelchair space and would not move despite being asked to do so by the driver. Mr Paulley was awarded £5,000 by the County Court who felt that the bus company, First Group, should have adopted an enforcement policy.
The Court of Appeal overturned the decision on the basis that the adjustment was not reasonable, given that the bus driver would not have had legal powers to compel the passenger to move. However, the Supreme Court disagreed.
The Supreme Court said the bus company had not gone far enough and suggested that a driver should make more of an effort to pressurise the individual to move, such as stopping the bus until the person complied. However, it considered the breach was limited and, therefore, did not consider it appropriate to award damages.
This decision is a reminder that for public service providers the duty to make reasonable adjustments extends beyond the employment relationship.