Bristol wheelchair user told he couldn't use First bus
A DISABLED pensioner believes he was wrongly told he could not board a First bus.
John Rippon, 74, was shocked when a driver turned him away from the number 8 service he uses almost every day. He was told he could not get on because his motorised wheelchair was too large – even though he has been taking his mobility aid with him on First buses for the past three years.
Mr Rippon believes some First drivers are ill-informed about which wheelchairs and mobility scooters are banned from buses and which ones are acceptable.
He says that although his Class 3 wheelchair is more powerful than standard models – travelling at a maximum speed of 8mph and legal for use on the road – it meets the size and weight requirements for use on buses.
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Mr Rippon, who needs a wheelchair because he suffers from a condition affecting his nerves called peripheral neuropathy, believes his wheelchair was mistaken for a Class 3 scooter – a type of mobility aid which is outlawed from public transport due to its size.
A member of Bristol Disability Equality Forum, Mr Rippon, who lives in Clifton, was twice turned away from a bus at a stop near the BBC studios in Whiteladies Road at lunchtime on Wednesday as he tried to catch the number 8 service to Blackboy Hill.
He said: "The driver said he wasn't allowed to take me anymore. I said 'What? I've been using this bus for years.' I was in shock.
"He said the bus company was telling their drivers not to take Class 3 wheelchairs but he didn't give a reason. Another number 8 came along and the driver also said he wouldn't let me on. Then a number 1 came along and the driver gave me the same story.
"I told the drivers it was the first I had heard of it.
"I rang the company's customer support service and they didn't seem to know anything about it."
Battery-powered Class 3 wheelchairs can reach a speed of 8mph and can be used on the road if tax and a licence is in place. They can also be used on the pavement at a maximum speed of 4mph.
Class 2 wheelchairs are also motorised but can only reach 4mph and are not permitted on the road. Class 1 wheelchairs are pushed or self-propelled.
Of his wheelchair, Mr Rippon said: "It's quite big because you have bigger batteries and more power but it is well within the Government's requirements for access to buses in terms of size and weight. It has indicators and flashing lights on it."
Karen Baxter, spokeswoman for First, said: "As a company we take our responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act very seriously.
"We would like to understand more about the problem Mr Rippon faced when trying to board one of our buses recently and with this in mind would urge him contact us, providing more details about exactly what happened.
"While class 3 wheelchairs are generally larger than standard ones, with many capable of travelling up to 8mph, if Mr Rippon's wheelchair fits within the wheelchair space, and the weight of it does not exceed the safe working limit of the bus ramp, we would be happy to allow him to travel on board our buses.
"We would urge Mr Rippon to contact us so we can discuss these issues with him directly, arranging, if necessary, for an individual assessment to be carried out on his chair."