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Rights of disabled passengers using buses and coaches

This advice applies to Scotland

Which buses and coaches have to be accessible if you're disabled

It's the law in Scotland for most buses and coaches to be accessible for disabled passengers, depending on the size, age and purpose of the bus. Only buses that can carry 22 passengers or more have to be accessible. As a general rule, all single and double deckers, like the ones operating in towns and cities, must be accessible. 

If you want to check which bus services are accessible for disabled travellers in your area you should contact your council public transport line.

Buses covered by the law must have:

  • space for a standard wheelchair
  • a boarding device to enable wheelchair users to get on and off, such as a ramp
  • a minimum number of priority seats for disabled passengers
  • handrails to assist disabled people
  • colour contrasting handrails and steps to help partially sighted people
  • easy to use bell pushes
  • equipment to display the route and destination. 

Can you travel by bus or coach in a wheelchair

As a wheelchair user you should be able to travel by bus if there is a wheelchair space available and the bus is not full. But you may 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
  • your wheelchair isn't safe. 

Make sure your wheelchair is safe

You must make sure that your wheelchair is in a safe condition to travel or the bus or coach company may not let you travel in case you hurt yourself or other passengers.

If you have a powered chair you must make sure that the battery is secure.

If your chair has adjustable kerb climbers you should check that they are set so that they do not catch on the ramp.

The bus company has the right to refuse to let you travel if they believe that your wheelchair is not in a safe condition.

It is a good idea to check whether your wheelchair can be carried by the bus operator before you travel. The company may have health and safety regulations in place about this.

If there's a pushchair or pram in the wheelchair space

Wheelchair users should be given priority over pushchair users. If there's a pushchair in the wheelchair space, when you try to board the bus, the driver should ask the pushchair user to move. However if the pushchair user refuses to move the driver can not force them to do so.

Asking for help getting on and off the bus

Some buses will be fitted with:

  • a portable ramp
  • steps
  • vehicle lowering systems.

If you want the driver or conductor to physically help you get on or off a bus you should ask for assistance. The driver or conductor should help although they can refuse if they have health and safety concerns. 

You could use Better Journey cards when you travel to indicate what your needs are. Give one of these to the driver and/or other passengers. Better journey cards are available on the First Group website

What to do if you're unhappy with a bus service

If you are dissatisfied with access to your bus service or the way you were treated by staff you can make a complaint. If you feel you've been treated unfairly because of your disability, you may want to take action for discrimination

You can also alert the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) to your issue. MACS raises awareness about the transport needs of people with disabilities but it won't be able to help resolve your particular case. 

Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS)
Scottish Government
Area 2D Dockside
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ

Tel: 0131 244 0923
Email: macs@gov.scot
Website: www.transport.gov.scot

Other useful information from other agencies

More information about accessible travel from The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee

London travel information for disabled and older people at Transport for All website or phone their helpline on 020 7737 2339.

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