The Report was submitted to the European Commission on 13 November 2019 as a contribution to the Public Consultation on the European Disability Strategy 2020.
The European Commission
adopted the European Disability Strategy 2020 (EDS) in 2010 as part of the EU efforts
to fully implement the fundamental right to equal treatment
and prohibition of discrimination based on grounds of disability in 2010 (enshrined in Article 19 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), as well as to help people with disabilities to carry out a more fulfiling
and dignified life, through a varied set of policy measures. Since the timeframe
of the EDS is close to completion, the European
Commission has launched a Public Consultation to gauge the performance of the EDS and gather impressions from societal stakeholders of all sorts, in view of adopting the next strategic
for the 2020-2030 period.
Mobilitysits at the apex of the list of obstacles turning daily activities of persons with disabilities into a constant
struggle. The scenario where persons with disability must make an extraordinary effort (physical
or economic) to move severely
impairs their fundamental right to access to essential services such as healthcare services, as well as their
right to a dignified
life (leisure activities), deepening other breaches in intersectional perspective (e.g. age, ethnic origin, poverty).
Given that SAPIA JMM focuses
on activating Law students to contribute to society tackling problems of accountability with
regard to the implementation and enforcement of EU law at the national
and EU level, our project consists of a revision
of the practical implementation of Regulation
181/2011 on the
rights of passengers with disabilities when travelling by bus.
A positive aspect of the Regulation is that any person experiencing reduced mobility (directly or indirectly, permanent or temporary) when travelling by bus becomes a beneficiary of the rights enshrined therein: persons in a wheelchair and those who broke a leg, persons with visual
or mental impairment, aged persons, all of them are included.
A varying array of rights is then acknowledged to the beneficiaries, including obligations for bus services providers to provide adequate information, accept them on board, provide
assistance at terminals
and on board, etc. However, the material scope of the Regulation severely restricts the practical
applicability of those rights because only bus
travels in distances over 250 km are
The Report evaluates the implementation of Regulation 181/2011 in Spain, United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Italy and Germany, by examining the extent to which the rights enshrined in the Regulation are guaranteed by economic operators and enjoyed by disabled people and persons with disabilities (DP-PRM) in practice, alongside measures taken by these States to ensure proper enforcement of these rights. Therefore, this Report provides the European Commission with practical insights on the main areas for improvement as to the relationship between disability and road transport in targeted EU Member States. Our remarks and suggestions might be addressed either in the current revision process of the European Disability Strategy or/and in the future upgrade of the Regulation, in order to strengthen the rights of DP-PRM in bus and coach transport and their integration in society.
was composed by 19 students and 2 professors of Deusto
Law School and operated in the framework of the subject “Political and Economic Integration in the European Union”, which
is inserted in the SAPIA JMM.
The process to elaborate the Report followed four stages:
assessment of the European Disability Strategy,
Selection of a set of rights enshrined in Regulation 181/2011,
Elaboration of indicators to measure the practical effectiveness of these rights,
Survey of public and private stakeholders in designated cities in the targeted Member States (reflected in the map); through their websites, online questionnaires, and personal interviews, students also carried out on-the-spot checks at bus terminals;
Synthesis of main findings and suggestions for improvement.
Some of our findings
are general. For instance, each Member State is obliged
to designate a National Enforcement Body to follow up on the implementation of Regulation 181/2011, but in practice the list of National
Enforcement Bodies published by the Commission is not reliable, because the national authorities do not update their NEB in a timely fashion.
Also, Member States are obliged to produce biannual reports on the results of the Regulation, but in practice
national reports are not produced, or not easily available online, especially for persons with disability. Very often, these reports are of low quality and do not meet the basic information or accountability requirements.
Focusing now on specific rights and the extent to which these are enjoyed in practice
by persons with disabilities, we found first that the beneficiaries are generally not obliged to pay an additional fee for travelling by bus, even when
they carry aid tools such as dogs or wheelchairs. In some countries (e.g. Denmark) the state subsidizes the purchase
of private vans by these persons, contributing to their autonomy.
Such need was perceived
by NGOs of Member States where these financial assistance is not offered by public institutions (e.g. Spain). The main obstacle
arising is that adaptation by bus companies to the new paradigm
has not been completed yet, and some coaches are still not adapted to the needs of persons with reduced
mobility. Flexibility is needed,
given the costs of changing the infrastructures and equipments; however, striking differences remain
across Member States targeted by the
A major area in dire need of improvement is availability and accessibility of information on travel conditions and procedures. Sheer differences persist across and within
Member States in this regard.
Access to the designated points at terminals
is not user-friendly in a sizable amount of cases.
Assistance is available
only during office hours, but buses operate at different
times as well. Overall,
mobility is severely
restricted, in practice,
when the interested person does not give notice, long in advance,
of the need for assistance at
terminals, at alighting the bus, and on board.
Linked to the above, the team found severe
deficiencies in the training
obligations as regards staff of bus companies and terminal management bodies in most Member States. Through mock enquiries, the team obtained
first-hand evidence that staff across the desk or telephone
line regularly fail to provide the most basic information on mobility
and assistance rights of persons
with disabilities, in most Member States. This situation clearly goes against the companies obligations to provide specific training on assistance to persons with disabilities, under Regulation 181/2011. One of our major conclusions is that these obligations
are complied with in a formalistic way, and are thus excluded from well-reflected career
development strategies present throughout the whole working
life of staff.
The availability of adapted seats or places on board is also restricted to a limited number of passengers. All the most often, second or third passengers with disabilities will not be accepted on board and will be obliged to wait for the next service. Such situation is seldom known in advance and severely affects the ability of persons with disabilities to plan and meet their scheduled activities.
The Report suggest removingthe250km distance limitation to include urban transportation in the scope of the rights guaranteed by the Regulation, because most persons face the greatest
difficulties to move within
A further suggestion concerns the inclusion
of a harmonised definition of ‘person with disability’ entitled to these mobility
rights, to prevent disparities across Member States, leading
to discrimination across
persons with disabilities.
Future upgrading of the Regulation might also include a list of valid grounds for refusal on board to reduce arbitrary
measures applied by bus drivers or companies
on a case-by-case basis, which reduce the
legal certainty as to
the capacity to move by bus.
To conclude, the experience leading to the submission of this Report
clearly shows that Universities represent a hub for the generation of knowledge, not only from a subject
matter perspective, but also because of the impressive amount of knowledgeable persons working at Higher Education Institutions. That knowledge may be relied on to serve society
in interesting and inspiring
ways, working hand in hand with public institutions such as the European Commission to improve the
lives of vulnerable groups, of which persons with
reduced mobility stand out.