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This page does not apply outside Great Britain.
Last updated 18th Feburary 2012 (part update 18th June 2015).

This page deals with how far transport is covered by the rules on services to the public in Equality Act Part 3. Most land-based transport is covered by the Equality Act. There are greater exceptions for ships and aircraft.


In brief –

Physical alterations to vehiches are excluded from the reasonable adjustment duty (EqA Sch 2 para 3). However, there are specific provisions in Part 12 EqA on making eg taxis, buses, and trains physically accessible. I don’t deal with these rules as they are not relevant to stammering.

Transport Code of Practice

The Disability Rights Commission issued a statutory Code of Practice in 2006 Provision and use of transport vehicles: Statutory Code of Practice, Supplement to Part 3 Code of Practice (pdf, archive of Disability Rights Commission), linked off 2007 archive of DRC’s page ‘Codes of Practice’. This sets out in some detail how the DRC saw the transport rules working under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA).

Even though the DDA has now been superseded by Equality Act 2010, it has been referred to in past cases and is still helpful. It is likely to be (and if still in force presumably still should be, by statute) taken into account by the courts where relevant: see Guidance and Codes of Practice>Pre-Equality Act Codes of Practice.

Land transport

The Equality Act covers most land-based public transport providers – rail, bus, coach, light rail & tram, taxi & PHV, car rental, and breakdown services.

Accordingly the normal rules on services to the public will generally apply to land-based transport. So there are rules against treating someone less favourably related to their disability (often subject to the objectivie justification defence). There is also a duty to make reasonable adjustments.

There are some exceptions, which are probably not relevant to stammering.

Below are two examples from the Transport Code of Practice about speech impediments.

“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’, above.

Technical note

The legal provisions, which provide exceptions for land transport but then largely bring land-based services back in, are EqA Sch 3 para 34 and (on reasonable adjustments) EqA Sch 2 para 3.

Ships and aircraft: facilities still covered by Equality Act

For ships (including hovercraft) and aircraft, there are major exemptions from the Equality Act. See below Ships, and Aircraft. However, there are services relating to ships and aircraft which still fall within the normal protection of Part 3 Equality Act.

It seems that, as before under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Equality Act applies in the normal way –

“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.”

This wording comes from Paragraph 3.14 of the Transport Code of Practice (above). The Court of Appeal followed this approach in Ross v Ryanair.

For example, the Equality Act should apply as normal to –

  • facilities for buying an air ticket, eg at an agency or by telephone;
  • making a timetable enquiry; or
  • using the buffet bar at a ferry terminal.

Roads v Central Trains, 2004, Court of Appeal
A railway company was required to make a reasonable adjustments for a wheelchair user who could not use a footbridge to cross between platforms at a station.The court said the approach should not be a minimalist one of ensuring some access but rather, so far as reasonably practicable, approximating access to that enjoyed by the rest of the public.

Campbell v Thomas Cook (bailii.org), 2014, Court of Appeal
A passenger on holiday with Thomas Cook in Tunisia was being evacuating back to the UK because civil disturbances had broken out. She had difficulties standing and walking. On the first day she had a 4 hour abortive wait for check-in at the airport in Tunisia, and then was brought back to the airport the following day when she was able to leave. Two Thomas Cook staff at the airport in Tunisia failed to help her sit, and she suffered projectile vomiting and migraines from the arthritic pain of having to stand. Thomas Cook argued that EqA Sch 3 para 33(2)) excluded liability because this was “anything governed by” the European regulation from travellers with reduced mobility (below). The Court of Appeal held the regulation was not intended to cover airport and check-in services at non-EU airports (though there are certain obligations for EU air carriers at non-EU airports if the flight is to or from the EU). The Equality Act applied and she was awarded compensation of £7,500.
It was held the EU regulation did not exclude liability. But did the Equality Act apply given the discrimination was outside Great Britain? It was evidently accepted the Equality Act did apply here. See further Services: Connection with Great Britain.

Ross v Ryanair, 2004, Court of Appeal
Both airport and airline were held liable for providing free use of a wheelchair for a person with mobility difficulties, between check-in and the plane.

There is a possible exception for air travel, because the Equality Act services provisions do not apply to “anything governed by” the European regulation for those with reduced mobility (below). However, this seems unlikely to be relevant as regards stammering.

As regards international air travel: so far as boarding and disembarkation are covered by the Equality Act, compensation rights may be very limited: see below Air travel: Montreal Convention.

By way of contrast with the facilities above that should be covered by the Equality Act, examples of what may be excluded by the ship and aircraft exceptions below include –

Technical notes

As regards air travel (and perhaps water travel, as regards reasonable adjustments) the above is based on the argument that these type of services – ticketing, enquiries etc – are not exempted from the Equality Act by EqA Sch 3 para 33 or, as regards reasonable adjustments, by EqA Sch 2 para 3.

It is possible that for ships and hovercraft it is the old Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) rules on provision of services that apply here: see below Ships and hovercraft. However, I think most likely these type of services fall within the Equality Act 2010 rather than the DDA.

Air travel: Montreal Convention

For the European regulation from travellers with reduced mobility (below), the Supreme Court held in Stott v Thomas Cook, 2014 (bailii.org) that the Montreal Convention excludes the right to compensation for injury to feelings from an air carrier, where the Convention applies. The same may well apply to the Equality Act itself. Injury to feelings would often be the only compensation right available, which would mean effectively there is no right to compensation.

Broadly, the Montreal Convention applies to liability of an air carrier on international flights –

  • while a person is on the aircraft; and also
  • in the course of operations of embarking (ie. boarding) or disembarking.

In summary, the Montreal Convention says that the airline’s liability is limited to an accident causing death or bodily injury.

Links on the Stott case:

Ships and hovercraft: exemption

As discussed above, various services such as timetables, booking facilities etc are covered by the Equality Act. However, the Equality Act rules on provision of services do not apply to in relation to –

  • transporting people by ship or hovercraft; or
  • a service provided on a ship or hovercraft.
    (There are somewhat different provisions on public functions – these would need to be considered if relevant.)

Under EqA s.30 these services are covered by the Equality Act only so far as prescribed by regulations. The regulations would set out on which vessels and in which waters the anti-discrimination rules apply. However, so far as I know, no regulations have been made.

This is not totally the end of the story, here things get rather horribly complicated: Pending regulations under EqA s.30, the pre-Equality Act (ie Disability Discrimination Act 1995) rules on provision of services still apply to services within s.30 EqA (Article 10 of SI 2010/2317 (legislation.gov.uk)). However, the pre-Equality Act rules also had major exceptions for shipping, so it would be a matter of whether one’s situation is not excluded by the DDA even though it is within s.30. It also needs to be borne in mind that effectively one cannot disability-related discrimination under the DDA, due to the Malcolm case.

For example, however, there is no protection from discrimination as regards shops, bars and restaurants onboard a ship or hovercraft – this is under both the Equality Act and DDA.

For water transport there are also exceptions from the reasonable adjustment duty in EqA Sch 2 para 3. It may be that these are not very relevant at the moment, given the continued application of the DDA 1995.

EU regulation for ship passengers

In December 2012 a European regulation took effect: Regulation (EU) No 1177/2010 concerning the rights of passengers when travelling by sea and inland waterway (pdf, eur-lex website). However, as with the European regulation for air travellers with reduced mobility (below), it is not at all clear that this regulation helps with stammering. It talks of a “person whose mobility when using transport is reduced….”.

Ships and hovercraft: consultation on future rules

In January 2011 the government issued a Consultation on the application of Part 3 of the Equality Act to Ships and Hovercraft (gov.uk). Also written statement (13/1/11).

As regards disability, the consultation proposed that the above transitional position for provision of services, under Article 10, should continue until December 2012 when the European regulation (above) took effect.

Aircraft: exemption and European regulation

Exemption from Equality Act

As discussed above, various services such as timetables, booking facilities etc are covered by the Equality Act. However, the Equality Act rules on provision of services do not apply to “transporting people by air” or “a service provided on a vehicle for transporting people by air (EqA Sch 3 para 33).

There are also some specific exclusions from the reasonable adjustment duty for air transport (EqA Sch 2 para 3). For example, it is never reasonable to have to take a step which would affect what happens in the plane while someone is travelling in it.

European regulation for air travellers with reduced mobility

The gap left by the Equality Act exemption is partly filled by a European regulation concerning rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air (EC regulation 1107/2006, linked below). The Department of Transport has issued a Code of Practice on the Regulation, also linked below. However, this regulation is not likely to be useful for stammering – see below Not helpful for stammering.

There are criminal sanctions and an administrative complaints machinery for breach of the European regulation. It seems that on an internal UK flight damages for injury to feelings could be claimed. However, it has been held that where the Montreal Convention applies, it excludes the right to damages for injury to feelings. See above Air travel: Montreal Convention.

The Equality Act services provisions do not apply to “anything governed by” the European regulation (EqA Sch 3 para 33(2)). However, this seems unlikely to stop the Equality Act applying to disabilities such as stammering at which the EU regulation is not directed, particularly in the light of Campbell v Thomas Cook (above). The UN Disability Convention (below) should help an argument that this carve-out from the Equality Act does not limit protection from disability discrimination too much.

Not helpful for stammering

It seems that the European regulation will be of little help with stammering –

  1. Firstly the regulation covers broadly “any person whose mobility when using transport is reduced due to [ …] or any other cause of disability, or age, and whose situation needs appropriate attention and the adaptation to his or her particular needs of the service made available to all passengers”. While this may cover some people who stammer, it may well not cover most.
  2. In any event, the rights given by the regulation would be of limited to use in relation to stammering. The rights include particularly the right to fly (subject to certain exceptions) and the right to listed kinds of assistance. The rights seem particularly aimed at people using wheelchairs or guide dogs, or requiring information in accessible formats, and other people who need assistance to move around (eg. some with mental health issues).

Links: European regulation on air travel and disability

Links: guidance on air travel and disability

Other sources on transport

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