Smith Welcomes Improved Rights For Disabled Passengers

06 July 2010
SNP Member of the European Parliament for Scotland, Mr Alyn Smith, has today welcomed a new regulation that could significantly improve the rights of 65 million disabled people across the European Union when using boats, buses and coaches. The new rules will apply to boat passengers (including cruise ships) from 2012, and Smith is pushing hard to get bus and coach passengers included in the legislation from the same date.

MEPs voted to ensure that a passenger's disability may not be used as a reason for denying him or her the right to board. Free assistance will now have to be given to disabled people in ports, on condition that the carrier or the port operator is notified when the reservation is made or at least 48 hours before boarding. Bus and coach operators now
have to provide their staff with specific training to enable them to assist disabled passengers properly. If the company were unable to offer such assistance (for instance if there were only one crew member), the disabled passenger would be entitled to ask to be
accompanied, free of charge, by a friend capable of providing the assistance required.

Speaking after the vote in Strasbourg Smith said:

“Today's vote is a significant step forward in improving the rights of disabled people across Scotland when using boats, buses and coach transport.

"With many journeys in Scotland being local, this will have a huge impact on millions of people’s lives who rely on public transport. It is imperative that we uphold the commitment that the UK made when it ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities last year. Whilst today's vote was an encouraging step forward we must continue to do more to ensure equal access to transport becomes a reality for disabled people.”

A spokesperson for Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) said:

"Despite the EU ratification of the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities last year, disabled people continue to experience unacceptable discrimination in access to transport, including in the UK. Equal access to transport is an essential part of leading an independent life.  RNIB believe that the regulation will significantly strengthen the rights of disabled people."