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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 December, 2003, 21:26 GMT
Wheelchair policy 'discriminates'
Bob Ross
Mr Ross has cerebral palsy and arthritis
A man charged 18 to use a wheelchair at Stansted Airport has begun a court action against the airport and Ryanair.

Bob Ross, 54, told Central London County Court the policy discriminates because it is painful for him to walk.

The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) is bringing the case on behalf of Mr Ross and will be asking for the 18 charge to be removed and for damages.

But the airline and the airport disagree over which firm is responsible for paying to provide wheelchairs.

Mr Ross, a community worker from Islington in north London, has suffered from cerebral palsy since birth and later developed arthritis, so walking is very painful.

He was charged 18 for the use of a wheelchair when he travelled between Stansted and Perpignan in France last year, which is a trip he makes regularly.

Ryanair adopted a position suggesting that use of wheelchairs was a matter of choice
Jason Galbraith-Marten
Lawyer for Mr Ross
Outside court, Mr Ross said: "It's my view that disabled people should have the same access as everybody else."

He told the court he usually used crutches but the 1km distance through the airport meant he had to use a wheelchair.

"The distance at Stansted is such that it is totally impossible for me to get from the check-in desk to the aeroplane without using a wheelchair," Mr Ross said.

Jason Galbraith-Marten, representing Mr Ross, described Ryanair as a "no frills airline".

He said: "Ryanair adopted a position suggesting that use of wheelchairs was a matter of choice ... a frill akin to sandwiches or newspapers, and Ryanair does not provide that frill."

Cost-cutting

Sinead Conroy, general manager of UK and European airports for Ryanair, said the airlines policy was aimed at keeping costs low.

Brian Langstaff QC, for Stansted Airport Limited, read out a list of around 20 UK and Irish airports where wheelchair costs are paid by the airline.

We think those airports which do not provide wheelchairs should do so
Ryanair spokesman

Before the hearing, a spokesman for Stansted said it provided free wheelchair use around the airport to the check-in desk, but at that stage it became the airline's responsibility.

It said Ryanair was the only airline to pass the cost of hiring wheelchairs from the airport services company on to the passenger.

But a Ryanair spokesman said: "We fly to 86 airports and at 80 of them wheelchairs are provided free of charge."

The DRC believes the action by the airport and airline contravenes the Disability Discrimination Act.

Chairman Bert Massie said before the hearing: "Disabled people should not have to pay more than anyone else for the right to travel."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Simon Montague
"Bob Ross is getting ready for a landmark case"



SEE ALSO:
Ryanair faces disability lawsuit
03 Sep 02  |  Business
Jim Davidson in disability row
21 Oct 03  |  Wales
Thalidomide victim left immobile
29 May 03  |  Gloucestershire


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