15 years of stammeringlaw 1999-2014
Overview Disability Discrimination Employment Services Education Business Brexit Advice More...
This page does not apply outside England, Wales and Scotland.

Transport - before October 2010

This page deals with how far transport is covered by the DDA Part 3 rules on services to the public. Most land-based transport is covered by the DDA rules. A limited transport exemption still applies to ships and aircraft, but even here various facilities such as timetables and booking are covered by the DDA.


The general rule is that providers of goods and services must comply with DDA Part 3 rules on services to the public. However at one time there was an exemption for transport services. This transport exemption still applies to ships and aircraft, though even here facilities such as booking are not affected and so remain within by the DDA - see Non land-based transport below. However in 2006 the exemption was abolished for most land-based transport, so for example trains, buses and taxis are now covered by the DDA.


"A disabled customer with a speech impairment or a learning disability may have difficulty in explaining to a bus driver what their destination is. If the bus driver refuses to allow them on the bus in order not to delay other customers waiting to board, this is unlikely to be justified." Para. 7.19

"A PHV driver orders a passenger with a severe speech impediment to leave the vehicle because he assumes she has had too much to drink. However, the passenger's speech is slurred as a result of a disability rather than alcohol consumption. The refusal of further service is for 'a reason which relates to the disabled person's disability.' This will be unlawful unless the transport provider is able to show that the treatment in question is justified, as defined by the Act." Para. 4.12

Both from 'Provision and Use of Transport Vehicles: Statutory Code of Practice'.

Land-based transport

From 4th December 2006, the DDA provides full coverage for most land-based public transport providers - rail, bus, coach, light rail & tram, taxi & PHV, car rental, and breakdown services. (For discrimination before 4th December, see below Land-based transport up to 3rd December 2006.)

In general the normal rules on services to the public apply. So there are rules against treating someone less favourably for a reason related to their disability (with only a limited justification defence), and a duty to make reasonable adjustments.

There are a few exceptions, which are probably not relevant to stammering. The main exception is that, except for car rental, permanent alterations to physical features are still excluded. These are being addressed by separate regulations on a staged timetable.

The Disability Rights Commission has issued a Statutory Code of Practice Provision and Use of Transport Vehicles (pdf file on EHRC website). This sets out in some detail how the DRC sees the transport rules working. The box on the right gives two examples from the Code about speech impediments.

If you want more detail, the new rules applying from 4th December are in The Disability Discrimination (Transport Vehicles) Regulations 2005: www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20053190.htm. They were passed under powers in the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. These powers allow the Government to limit the transport exemption, bringing particular modes of transport within the DDA 1995 as and when it thinks fit.

Non land-based transport

For non-land based transport such as ships and aircraft, the rules on services to the public do not apply to discrimination which relates to (a) provision of a vehicle or (b) services when travelling in a vehicle.The detailed wording is rather lengthy - see box. What does this mean?

Facilities still covered by DDA

Firstly, it is important that this exemption does not cover all services relating to non-land based transport. There are services relating to ships and aircraft which still fall within Part 3 DDA. The DDA applies as normal:

"in respect of services which do not involve the use or provision of the vehicle itself. These matters include timetables, booking facilities, waiting rooms etc at airports, ferry terminals, and bus, coach and rail stations."

Technical rules in more detail for:
- non land-based transport; and
- all transport up to 3rd Dec 2006 (from 30/6/05):

The goods and services rules against treating a disabled person less favourably do not apply in relation to a case where the service is a transport service and, as provider of that service, the provider of services discriminates against a disabled person -
(a) in not providing, or in providing, him with a vehicle; or
(b) in not providing, or in providing, him with services when he is travelling in a vehicle provided in the course of the transport service.

As regards the reasonable adjustment duty, it is never reasonable for a provider of services, as a provider of a transport service, to have to take steps which would -
(a) affect whether vehicles are provided in the course of the service or what vehicles are so provided; or
(b) where a vehicle is provided in the course of the service, affect what happens in the vehicle while someone is travelling in it; or
(c) involve the alteration or removal of a physical feature of a vehicle used in providing the service.
(s.21ZA DDA 1995, inserted by s.5 DDA 2005)

This wording comes from Paragraph 3.14 of the Revised Code of Practice: Rights of Access (pdf file on EHRC website). Paragraph 2.36 of the older Part 3 Code of Practice applying to discrimination before 4th December 2006 says much the same, and the courts followed the approach in Ross v Ryanair.

So examples of situations that should fall within the DDA include buying an air ticket at an agency or by telephone; making a timetable enquiry; or using the buffet bar at a ferry terminal.

Where the exemption applies

So far as the transport exemption does apply - for example services onboard a ship or aircraft - the DDA goods and services rules are excluded.

This reflects the Government's consultation document Proposals to lift the exemption for transport services (on DfT website) (see also Disability Rights Commission response). The Government said in this that it would prefer air travel and shipping to be dealt with by voluntary arrangements, and to be brought within the legislation only if this does not prove effective.

The present wording of the transport exemption was inserted by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 with effect from 30th June 2005, tightening up the previous wording of the exemption.

Aviation - voluntary arrangements and policy

There is a voluntary Access to air travel for disabled people: code of practice (on DfT website). The Government has power to make the Code of Practice law if it is found that airlines are not abiding by it voluntarily.

The Disability Rights Commission said in August 2006 that it is disappointed at the DfT's decision to continue with the exclusion of air travel from the DDA. The DRC said that evidence from callers to its own helpline was proof enough that the voluntary code was not working. See DRC says voluntary airline code not working (on archived DRC website) - 11/8/06; and DfT News Release Access to air travel for disabled people - Research Report published (on DfT website) - 4/8/06. The DRC had previously raised the issue in October 2005: Ryanair's policy on disabled passengers - an update (on archived DRC website) - 21/10/05.

There are European Airports and Airlines Voluntary Commitments on Air Passengers Rights (on EDF website):

An EU Regulation on 'The Rights of Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility when travelling by air' comes into effect over 2007 and 2008, but does not cover people who stammer. There is more on the regulation in a DRC Briefing Paper (link to archived DRC website).

Aviation was discussed in para 4.6 and 10.4 of the consultation document Proposals to lift the exemption for transport services (on DfT website) - November 2002.

Shipping - voluntary arrangements and policy

There is a Design of Large Passenger Ships and Passenger Infrastructure: Guidance on Meeting the Needs of Disabled People (on DPTAC website).

Produced by Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), research on the effectiveness of this Guidance will help the Government decide whether they need to turn the guidance into law. Research was completed in January 2006: Review of DPTAC guidance: Large passenger ships and passenger infrastructure (final report) (on DPTAC website).

Shipping was discussed in para 4.7 and 10.5 of the consultation document Proposals to lift the exemption for transport services - November 2002.

Role of UN disability convention?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests in its Guide to the UN Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities (link to EHRC website) - see page 16 of pdf version - that the current exemption for air and shipping may be inconsistent with the Convention. More on the UN Convention.

Other sources on transport

Proposed Changes


Homepage | Equality Act in outline | Meaning of "disability" | Employment | Goods and services | Education | Human Rights Act | Proposed changes | Advice | Links | What's new | Site index | Privacy (cookies) | Disclaimer

Personal home page

© Allan Tyrer 1999-2010
Last updated 19th July, 2010