Court Rules in Favour of Wheelchair Claim
15 March 2013 at 9:17 am
The Federal Court has ruled in favour of a complaint by wheelchair user Julia Haraksin in her three-year battle to have bus company Murrays Australia comply with national Disability Standards.
Justice Nicholas ruled that Murrays Australia had directly discriminated against Haraksin when the bus company refused to accept a booking from her because none of its buses were wheelchair accessible.
Justice Nicholas also found Murrays Australia had breached the national Disability Standards.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) represented Ms Haraksin in her action against Murrays Australia.
“The decision puts all public transport operators in Australia on notice,” PIAC Principal Solicitor, Alexis Goodstone said.
"Public transport operators cannot afford to ignore the Disability Standards. They have a legal obligation to comply, and people with disability who are sick of being treated like second class citizens will hold them to account," Goodstone said.
PIAC has been advocating for accessible public transport for people with disability for several years, acting in cases against Virgin Airlines, the NSW Department of Transport and two large taxi companies, and most recently, RailCorp.
In Haraksin v Murrays Australia, PIAC claimed Murrays breached national Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport when it refused Haraksin’s booking for a bus ticket from Sydney to Canberra in 2009.
The Disability Standards came into effect in 2002. They require all new public transport vehicles to be wheelchair accessible and required 25% of transport operator’s existing fleet to be accessible by 2007.
“This decision reinforces a very basic principle: everyone has a right to equal access to public transport,” Goodstone said. "People with disability should not have to go to court in order to catch a bus."
PIAC says Julia Haraksin never sought any compensation in her case against the bus company but her aim was to get get Murrays to meet its obligations.
The court’s orders in relation to the decision are still to be decided.