Rights of disabled passengers on transport

Lists the individual rights disabled passengers have when travelling.


Obligations on rail transport providers

All licensed train and station operators are required to establish and comply with an accessible travel policy (ATP). An operator’s ATP sets out the level of services and facilities that disabled passengers can expect, how to get assistance and how to get help if things do go wrong. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) approves and monitors train and station operator’s compliance with the ATP requirements.

The assistance offered by each operator vary slightly but as a minimum all operators must provide:

  • passenger assist: assistance should be provided at all stations during hours when trains are scheduled to serve the station. Booking required 24 hours in advance until 31 March 2020
  • alternative accessible transport: if a station is inaccessible, operators must provide, without extra charge, an appropriate alternative service to the next, most convenient, accessible station
  • assistance must also be provided when this has not been arranged in advance, depending on conditions at the time of travel as well as staff availability
  • tickets and fares: if disabled passengers are unable to book a ticket in advance, they must be able to do so at the station without penalty on the train or at the station
  • luggage: operators must ensure staff will be available to assist when this assistance has been arranged in advance
  • scooter carriage: operators must make policy clear in an ATP, particularly with regard to any policy excluding carriage of scooters
  • passenger information: operators must provide up to date information about accessibility of facilities and services, timetables, fares, connections and delays, disruption, diversions and emergencies
  • aural and visual information: commitment to provide, wherever possible, clear and consistent aural and visual information on train departures
  • the disabled person’s railcard (DPRC): if you’re eligible for a DPRC you can get up to a third off adult rail tickets by applying for a disabled person’s railcard — you must provide evidence of a relevant disability

Rail complaints and enforcement process

As a disabled passenger, if you are not satisfied with the rail service provided, you should contact the train operating company that you used. If you are not satisfied with the response, you can then contact the independent Rail Ombudsman. The Rail Ombudsman was established by industry to investigate and rule on unresolved customer complaints, with the power to issue decisions that are binding on the industry.

ORR is responsible for monitoring train operating companies’ compliance with their ATP obligations.


If you are driving and you have a medical condition or disability, you must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

Information on:

The Motability Scheme: If you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit then you can elect to join ‘The Motability Scheme’. The scheme can help you with leasing a:

  • car
  • powered wheelchair
  • scooter

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for the disability benefits that provide a passport to the scheme. While DWP works closely with Motability, it is an independent charitable organisation that is wholly responsible for the terms and the administration of the scheme itself. Therefore all questions should be addressed to Motability.

Car complaints and enforcement process

Motability Scheme: Complaints can be registered directly with The Motability Scheme via a complaints form, telephone, and email or by post. Motability will try to resolve complaints straightway or within 8 weeks of the matter being raised. If you are not happy with how your complaint has been handled it can be referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service, free of charge.

Blue Badge Scheme: If you have been refused a Blue Badge, you can ask for the decision to be reviewed by the council. If you believe there was fault in the way the decision was reached you can contact the Local Government Ombudsman. The Ombudsman investigates complaints of injustice caused by maladministration or service failure. For more information on the application procedure and how to write a complaint go to your local Citizen Advice.

Buses and coaches

Obligations on car transport providers

Physical accessibility: Buses designed to carry over 22 passengers on local and scheduled routes must comply with the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR), and coaches must comply from 1st January 2020.

Driver responsibilities: Under the Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990 (the “Conduct Regulations”) drivers of public service vehicles must provide disabled passengers with certain types of assistance for example deploy boarding ramps and lifts when required, provide wheelchair users with assistance to board or alight the vehicle etc.

Bus stations and stops: local transport authorities (LTAs) are generally responsible for roadside infrastructure supporting bus services, including bus stations stops, and passengers should contact the relevant authority if facilities are insufficiently accessible to meet your needs. In undertaking their activities LTAs and other public bodies are subject to the Equality Act 2010 Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) and the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Local Buses in England: Concessionary Travel: In England the statutory bus concession provides eligible older and disabled people with free off peak local bus travel. Eligibility for the concession is on the basis of criteria enshrined in legislation.

English passes from councils are usable:

  • at any time on a Saturday, Sunday or bank holiday
  • from 9:30am to 11pm on any other day

For travel outside of these times, contact the relevant council.

People who think they may meet the criteria should contact their local authority for how to apply.

The Equality Act 2010 outlines that transport operators must make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers. Only the Courts can determine definitively what action constitutes a “reasonable adjustment”. In January 2017 the Supreme Court clarified the law as it affects access to the wheelchair space for wheelchair users, ruling that drivers must do more than simply request other passengers vacate the space when it is required by a wheelchair user.

Bus and coach complaints and enforcement process

Physical accessibility: Responsibility for enforcing compliance with PSVAR rests with the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) and the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC). Passengers who believe a bus or coach which is subject to PSVAR, does not comply with its requirements, should report their concerns to DVSA for further investigation.

Driver responsibilities: When passengers feel that assistance which is required by the Conduct Regulations or which might constitute a reasonable adjustment, has not been provided by a bus or coach driver we would encourage them, in the first instance, to complain directly to the service operator concerned. If a complaint cannot be resolved by the operator, passengers may wish to contact:

  • Bus Users UK, an alternative dispute resolution body for bus and coach passengers, regarding issues occurring in Great Britain outside London
  • London TravelWatch for issues occurring in London.

Bus stations and stops: Passengers who do not feel that an LTA has acted appropriately may refer a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman or seek their own legal advice.

Concessionary travel: Those who feel they have been unfairly refused a concessionary permit should complaint in the first instance to the relevant authority, escalating it to the Local Government Ombudsman if necessary. Concessionary travel is a devolved policy area and available concessions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are a matter for the respective devolved administrations.

Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle (PHV)

Obligations on taxi and PHV transport providers

Disabled passengers travelling by taxi or PHV have a number of rights, under the Equalites Act 2010, including:

  • section 15, which protects disabled people against less favourable treatment because of something arising out of their disability
  • section 20 and 29 which requires service providers to make reasonable adjustments to enable users to access their services
  • section 164A, which requires non-exempt drivers to accept the carriage of any disabled person who could reasonably travel in their vehicle, to provide reasonable mobility assistance to enable a passenger to get into and out of the vehicle with their mobility aids, and not make or propose additional charges for doing so
  • section 165, which requires non-exempt drivers of taxis and PHVs designated as wheelchair accessible to accept the carriage of wheelchair users, to provide them with appropriate assistance, and not to make or propose additional charges for doing so
  • section 165A, which requires drivers of PHVs or pre-booked taxis to assist a disabled person to find and identify any vehicle which has been hired, and not make or propose additional charges for doing so
  • section 167A, which prohibits PHV operators from refusing to accept a booking from, or on behalf of, a disabled person if they are doing so because the person is disabled or to avoid the driver being subject to certain related duties (except where it is reasonable to refuse the request because of a lack of suitable vehicles) and which also prohibits operators from making or proposing additional charges in connection with carrying out the duties set out in sections 164A, 165 and 165A
  • sections 168 and 170, which in broad terms, require non-exempt drivers of taxis and PHVs to accept the carriage of assistance dogs and to refrain from charging extra for them

Taxi and PHV complaints and enforcement process

Passengers who feel that a driver has failed to comply with Sections 164A, 165, 165A, 167A, 168 or 170 of the Equality Act 2010 should contact the relevant Local Licensing Authority (LLA) in the first instance. LLAs may often be identified by a notice displayed in or on licensed vehicles, and are usually the relevant district or unitary authority. In London, Transport for London licenses taxis and PHVs on behalf of the Boroughs.

Where passengers believe that a driver has failed to make reasonable adjustments under Section 20 of the Equality Act 2010 they are encouraged in the first instance to contact the relevant LLA. They may, however also wish to seek their own legal advice regarding the potential to take action in the courts.

Finally, where a passenger requires information on the accessibility of taxi and PHV services in their area, or on the steps being taken to improve it, they should also contact the LLA. If they feel the action being taken by the LLA is inappropriate or insufficient, they might consider complaining to the authority concerned. Where complaints cannot be resolved, they may be escalated to the Local Government Ombudsman.


Obligations on maritime transport providers

Maritime passenger rights entitle passengers to a percentage cost reimbursement where they are delayed, subject to conditions and exceptions.

Disabled and reduced mobility passengers are entitled to:

  • acceptance for carriage unless safety reasons justify refusal
  • free assistance in ports to embark, disembark and on board vessels but not caring functions
  • staff who have been trained to understand disabled person’s needs
  • assistance dogs being carried subject to national pet regulations
  • medical and mobility equipment to be allowed on board where it is reasonable for the voyage
  • ports and vessels that are fully accessible although there is no retrofitting requirement so it will take time for all facilities to be compliant

Reduced mobility means anyone whose mobility is reduced when using transport as a result of any physical disability (sensory or locomotor, permanent or temporary), intellectual disability or impairment, or any other cause of disability as a result of age and whose situation needs appropriate attention and adaptation to their particular needs of the service made available to all passengers

Maritime complaints and enforcement process

The Maritime Coastguard Agency is responsible for enforcing legislation. Complaints are dealt with under a 3 tier system:

  1. complain to the operator to give them the opportunity to resolve the issue
  2. complain to the voluntary complaint handling body for the type of voyage being complained about.
  3. complain to the MCA who enforce the legislation

Find out more about the rights of maritime passengers on GOV.UK.


Obligations on aviation transport providers

Aviation passenger rights provide that assistance suitable to the passenger’s needs must be provided without any cost to the passenger at the airport as well as on board the aircraft. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • assistance at check-in and with baggage
  • help storing and retrieving baggage
  • support throughout the emigration, customs and security procedures
  • moving to the toilet facilities if required
  • transport of up to 2 pieces of mobility equipment in addition to medical equipment

Travelling with a companion: You must travel with a companion if you’re not self-reliant for example you need help with feeding, breathing, using medication or using the toilet. The airline you’re flying with will do their best to make sure you sit next to each other, so long as you tell them at least 48 hours before departure.

Assistance dogs: Recognised assistance or guide dogs are allowed in the cabin without charge on approved routes. Larger dogs will normally sit on the floor whilst lighter dogs can be carried in the owner’s lap.

You do not need to be permanently or visibly disabled to benefit from assistance, which means anyone who has difficulty moving around, for example because of their disability, age or a temporary injury, can receive help when they fly.

Assistance should be requested no later than 48 hours in advance but if shorter notice or no notice at all is given, reasonable efforts must still be made to assist you.

Assistance should be requested from the airline no later than 48 hours in advance but if shorter notice or no notice at all is given, reasonable efforts must still be made to assist you.

You can get more detailed information about your rights when travelling by air from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which is the UK’s aviation regulator.

Aviation complaints and enforcement process

The legislation requires that a designated complaints body is in place to deal with any alleged infringement of the regulation.

Firstly, an individual should take their complaint directly to the airline or airport. If they have done this and are dissatisfied with the response they have been provided with, the individual can:

  1. Refer their complaint to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body.
  2. If the airline or airport does not have an agreement with an ADR, they can refer their complaint to the CAA.
  3. Take direct legal action.

Some airlines and airports are members of ADR which have been approved by the CAA for providing a high standard of dispute resolution for consumer disputes.

If an individual is dissatisfied with the response of an airline or airport, or they have not received a final response in 8 or more weeks, they may be able to refer their complaint to an ADR body directly.

ADR bodies only handle certain complaints but these include problems faced by disabled passengers or passengers with reduced mobility when using air transport services.

Both ADR bodies and the CAA can advise on whether they think the complaint is valid, and if so will take it up with the business concerned. However, the CAA complaints team cannot impose a decision on an airline while CAA-approved ADR bodies can.

Published 25 July 2018
Last updated 23 November 2022 + show all updates
  1. Update to obligations on taxi and PHV transport providers under the Equalities Act 2010.

  2. Updated to reflect the current legal framework and duties of operators (as supported by DPTAC), to take account of accessible travel policy requirements, to feature guidance on who rail passengers should contact for assistance and complaints and to direct users to guidance for maritime and aviation passengers.

  3. First published.