A new legal fund has been launched to hold transport companies to account when they fail to provide equal treatment for disabled passengers.
The fund will take transport companies to court over major and systemic issues of discrimination and breaches of equality legislation, and is the first of its kind.
People with disabilities who experience problems when using public transport may get an apology but often little changes afterwards.
These passengers rarely have the funds to take a powerful transport company to court as they will have to pay not only their own but also the transport company’s legal costs if they lose the case.
Many cases of disabled people having transport problems have been publicised. This week the Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike spoke out about being abandoned on a flight back from the Para Athletics Championships in Berlin.
Wafula Strike is one of a group of Paralympians, disabled activists and lawyers who are launching the #TransportJustice campaign to help disabled people use the law to challenge transport discrimination.
This initiative is supported by the charity Inclusion London and the law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn. Others involved include the Paralympian Helene Raynsford and disabled transport campaigner Doug Paulley. The fund will initially focus on cases about rail and air travel.
There are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, many of whom have problems using public transport. Despite investment in rail accessibility, it has become much harder for disabled people to turn up and travel and often the assistance that has been booked is not provided. Wheelchairs or other aids which are a lifeline for many get lost or broken by airlines. In some cases the transport companies are in breach of the Equality Act 2010.
The aim of the fighting fund is to use the law strategically to focus on cases which have the potential to change policy and practice.
Wafula Strike said: “I am supporting this initiative because I want to help more disabled people with different impairments and experiences to stand up for what is right, because we all should be treated like human beings.”