Sal Brinton refused access to bus because driver wouldn’t ask man with buggy to move

Sal BrintonJust over a year ago, party President Sal Brinton wrote on here about her woeful experience of rail travel, saying she felt that disabled people were treated like packages. She outlined what had happened to her over a six month period:

  • Last Sunday, returning from the Scottish Lib Dem Conference in Aberdeen, I was  left on an empty train on an empty platform at midnight at King’s Cross for over 15 minutes before I spotted someone on the first floor, and waved furiously to get her attention;

  • Refused permission on to a pre-booked train, because rush hour commuters rushed on the train ahead of me, and the train conductor didn’t want to move the commuters and risk being late – even though she watched them barge past the National Rail guy with the ramp and me;

  • Often been taken off the train by the conductor because the station staff weren’t notified I was on the train;

  • Having to be transported off the end of a rail platform, across the rail lines and up the other side, because many of our stations, even on main lines like Brockenhurst on the  London to Bournemouth line, don’t have lifts;

  • And been told by Complaints Dept at First Capital Connect that  lifts at Luton aren’t on the capital works schedule for some years and it is also  acceptable not to have lifts there because they are available at Luton Airport station;

Yesterday, she had an equally unpleasant experience while trying to board a number 24 bus in London. She told the Evening Standard what had happened to her:

The guy just refused to cooperate and turned his back on me and the conductor refused to even have a conversation with him.

The conductor told me there was another bus coming soon, but that sailed past while we were having that discussion. In the end they just closed the doors on me leaving the people at the bus stop frothing at the mouth with anger.

It’s not like Sal was wanting the other passenger to do that much – just budge up a bit.

I didn’t want him to fold up the buggy and take his child out, just move slightly so we could both fit. On the bus I did eventually get a buggy got on and everyone was very helpful and we managed to get both of us on.

Frankly it was all about wanting something to happen. I felt like an inanimate object who was just getting in the way.

There are enough barriers for wheelchair users as it is.

It is awful that disabled people are made to feel like this. They have as much right to be on the bus as anyone else. Transport for London need to enforce the procedures outlined by their spokesperson.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • The railway industry hates all its customers. If you have a problem with mobility all they’re going to see in it is a chance to mess you about even more. The culture needs to change, but it would take a lot to change it.

  • The culture on all public transport needs to take note of these issues: but social attitudes need to change as well. Although I am only 50, I have to walk with the aide of a walking stick – many assume because I am not a pensioner I am ‘milking the system’ and when I ask politely if someone can move from the designated disabled space there is so much tut tutting it sounds like Arkwright saying toffee. I did lose it once (well maybe more than once) when I referred to my walking stick and telling the accuser that it ‘wasn’t a blinking toothpick, you know!’

    Discrimination against the disabled is I fear on the rise, no matter what regulations are made.

  • Stephen Campbell 29th Apr '15 - 3:41pm

    Such a sad story. Even more sad is that this type of treatment of disabled people is becoming more and more common. Disability hate crime is in the increase (source: And is it any wonder this is happening when the right-wing press has been constantly painting the disabled as “scroungers” or somehow all on the take? This attitude is, of course, fueled by DWP press releases containing dodgy statistics and the way many Tories have spoken of disabled people who claim benefits. I would like nothing more on May 8th to see IDS removed from the DWP so that he can cause no more harm.

    The test of a good society is how we treat our weakest and least able citizens. We’re going backwards.

  • I am going to annoy here. It does work both ways. My wife and use use the bus, after all we have the aged pass, particularly when we are looking after the young grandchildren.. We have not been able to get on with the the buggy and baby because the defined area was filled by a disabled wheelchair, and we have seen young mothers with a couple of children, on one occasion with twins, not being able to boards for the same reason. One answer is extra space for disabled and buggies but that removes seats on the bus. You can of course break down the buggy and then have to carry the children and shopping etc onto the bus and sit with a baby or small child, which is deemed unsafe. Nothing is simple.
    Regarding trains, I am a regular traveller on Virgin and London Midland and cannot recall seeing any problems experienced by disabled people. Indeed the Virgin station staff seem to take extra care of them even though it means the train being delayed by a minute or two on the tight schedules that operate given the traffic density and speeds involved. When all the standard seats have been taken I have seen a conductor place a disabled person with a wheelchair in the first class for no extra cost. Not all is bad.

  • This coalition government has made this country a more unwelcome place for the disabled. The rhetoric of workers and shirkers, strivers and skivers, and of course alarm clock Britain makes me fearful of the next five years. To think, I thought things might change with David Cameron’s experience of disability and Danny Alexander’s t.v. campaigning.

    The use of dodgy dwp statistics to score cheap points in the tabloids, the constant confusion of IC, DLA and ESA have been truly toxic. It is getting harder and harder for disabled people to stand up for ourselves.

  • “I didn’t want him to fold up the buggy and take his child out”
    If the space is needed by a wheel chair, parents should consider themselves lucky if both can fit with a bit of moving around. Frankly the drivers should be kicking passengers off who are not making space, if they can’t play be the rules of the system (disabled get priority, then the other “less able”) perhaps having to walk would help them learn.

    Too often you see fit men sat in the priority seats on trains etc. when there are other seats available and they expect the “less able” to move down carriages to find a seat. A bit more enforcement of proper transport etiquette would do a lot. The same goes for pregnant women and the elderly being expected to stand when the very able just ignore the rules.

    Stephen Campbell
    I think you misdiagnose this one, it is not new certainly not in the last 5 years so nothing to do with any recent issues, it is pure selfishness by certain people who have to be shamed in to obeying the rules. I never seen any one refuse someone with a walking stick like Reg Yeates but I have seen people having to be made to move by other passengers as they pretend not to see the “less able.”

  • @theakes obviously you could take Sal Brinton at her word. Nothing she said surprised me. Among my disabled friends Sal Brinton’s experience is far too common. None have yet to be upgraded to first class.

    I’d ask you what are the consequence of you not being able to get on a bus with your grandchildren?
    For a disabled person they could be huge. I have a condition which limits my energy, having to wait (say for and hour) for another bus could have disastrous consequences for my health for the rest of the week, or even month.

  • theakes

    I have often seen people take up space and then be uncooperative when someone who has a higher priority needs it. I have never seen any of the transport companies make extra effort for the disabled (though some have been very helpful to me as an able-bodied passenger when moving large objects). I think things have along way to go before the positive could be considered anywhere near comparable to the negative.

    As to your suggestion of more space for wheel chairs etc. I don’t think the loss of seats would be a major loss as able bodied people can stand and provided there are sufficient priority seats for the other groups of “less able.”

  • A recent court judgement (Court of Appeal?) ruled that bus staff have no power to require people to make way for wheelchair users.

    Perhaps one of our parliamentarians should take this up?

  • Rob Gilliam 29th Apr '15 - 9:29pm

    Sorry, Psi, but the rules are clear that the bus staff cannot require someone who is travelling legally to move or leave the bus, even if another user with an apparently greater need wishes to board the bus.

    (See excerpt from the “red book” at

    I’m not defending the father – it does sound like he was being unnecessarily obstructive – but it may be that the child was asleep or he didn’t want to disturb them for another (valid) reason, and if he was a non-English speaker (apparently London has a few of these – ask Nigel Farridge) then his “turning his back” may have been a reflection of his communication difficulties.

    I’ve no doubt that this situation could have been handled better by the bus staff involved, but at the end of the day even Lady Brinton did not have a right to board the bus if she could not be safely accommodated on it to to passengers already on the bus – same as when a full bus sails past a bus stop full of able- and less-able-bodied travellers.

  • Rob Gilliam

    Well you appear to be conflaring to issues. There is what the driver can do and what passengers should do. It is very clearmy marked on busses that priority is for the disabled. So the fact the staff can’t enforce acceptable behaviour shows the system is broken.

    In my opinion you are far too accepting of the behaviour. Sleeping babies is not a reason to not move a buggy. As for language , when I travel in countries which don’t provide instructions in a language I speak/read I am very careful to ensure I try to inform my self of the rules and turning your back is a guarantee (if you are having trouble understanding) that you won’t understand.

    It cannot ever be a “right” for a disabled person to use a particular bus, purely for practical reasons. However transport is an area where we have to accommodate a hierarchy of physical need and too many behave exceptionally selfishly. If you refused to move to accommodate a wheel chair in a restaurant, the owner would be within their rights to kick you out. Public transport providers should expect everyone to accommodate those less able, and should be empowered to deny service to those who won’t abide by that very simple principle.


    I agree, it sounds like an interpretation of old legislation that doesn’t work in today’s world.

  • I’d imagine a baby is safer in a buggy than in arms, especially on a bus. The problem is overcrowding. The Lib Dems, Tories and Labour have done nothing about rail overcrowding in 20 years.

  • Thought I might start a discussion. What I did not say in my first epistle was that our grandchild is also disabled, being on oxygen support. .

  • Reg Yeates 29th Apr ’15 – 3:13pm…………… Discrimination against the disabled is I fear on the rise, no matter what regulations are made…….

    I agree. Since moving back to the UK I find a marked contrast in the lack of respect and consideration, for the ‘less abled’, with that on the Continent….My daughter, who is disabled, only travels ‘off-peak’ because of the impossibility of dealing with conditions on a crowded bus
    As an aside, I find ‘mothers with children’ the least accommodating of all users…..At my local supermarket ‘mothers with children’ seem to believe that the ‘disabled’ spaces alongside their designated spots are equally for them….
    I also believe that the spaces labelled should only be for mothers with toddlers not for those with 8+ year olds….

  • @expats this is partly the consequence of living on a crowded island. I visited New Zealand recently and there is just not the tension that you experience here.

    With regards to the specific issue of parking, and please note I’m not defending this point of view but pointing it out, it is not uncommon to see cars with no disability adaption displaying a blue badge and people getting into or out of said cars with no obvious disability. So there will be a perfectly valid reason why a blue badge has been awarded to said car driver, but if its not obvious then it has the capacity to cause resentment.

  • Expats

    “I also believe that the spaces labelled should only be for mothers with toddlers not for those with 8+ year olds….”

    Absolutely , I often see parents with small babies having to put prams in the path of traffic as the “parent and child” spaces have been taken by middle aged people with no children or ocationally teenagers.

  • expats

    “As an aside, I find ‘mothers with children’ the least accommodating of all users…..”

    I would widen that to include fathers too. I have often been horifed to see fathers (and mothers) being very inconsiderate of the less able on public transport. Teaching their children such equally apauling attitudes.

  • I have every sympathy with Sal Brinton. I do not travel on the bus because I could not stand hanging on to a strap and because I have no obvious disability I can’t rely on anyone giving me a seat. I have been subjected to abuse for parking on a double yellow by bus drivers and one came so close to squashing me between his bus and my car that I feared for my life. When I cried out in terror he stopped the bus and told me I deserved it for parking on a double yellow line. When I pointed out rather loudly that I had a disabled badge and was allowed to do so he said “Well you don’t look it” and drove off.
    I have ME so have very limited energy. Some weeks I cannot go outside at all so on the rare occasions that I do I fight back against the illness by wearing bright clothes and make up. People who don’t “look disabled” because they aren’t in a wheelchair may be unable to walk very far. Think of people with MS for example.
    I have to say though that I use a wheelchair in airports because of the long distances and something always goes wrong even though for the most part people are very kind.
    Let’s get the law changed about the buses and while we’re about it make it illegal to occupy a disabled parking space without a blue badge. But don’t get me started on the difficulties of getting one of those.

  • I don’t think the attitude shown to the disabled is a result of crowding. It a consequence of the way those on benefits have been systematically demonised by this government and its tabloid enablers. If you divide people into workers and shirkers, those that can’t work will be considered by many to be shirkers. People often have a very narrow view of disability. There will always be grey areas but by constantly highlighting the small minority that exploit those areas you end up creating resentment for all disabled people.

    Attitudes can take a long time to change, but I’d like to ask about government policy.I was recently accessed for P.I.P and looked into recording my appointment with the assessor. From past experience I know that what ends up in the report can sometimes be very different from what was actually said. You used to be able to request that your appointment would be recorded. I phoned up to see if that would be possible but was told that if I want to record the appointment I have to provide the recording equipment myself. I asked if I could use my phone or computer but was told that I have to be able to provide a copy of the recording to the assessor at the end of the appointment on a c.d. So to record the assessment I would need a double deck c.d. recorder. Do they even make them anymore?
    In the end I didn’t end up recording the appointment. I await the report nervously.

    It is clear that everything was being done to make it as difficult as possible just to record my assessment. Which I think given the record of atos is not unreasonable. Where is the fairness in that? What have they got to hide?

  • George Potter 30th Apr '15 - 4:44pm

    @Rob Gilliam

    You’re wrong there. It’s very much the case that bus drivers can compel passengers to move to make space or make them get off. The ruling you refer to only established that bus drivers aren’t legally obliged to do that.

  • Trains are hopelessly overcrowded during peak hours (although not First Class in my experience of FGW), but that is no excuse. All members of the public should be able to travel with equal ease. That must be our goal and expectation. Anything else is unacceptable.

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