In August 2009, Julia Haraksin, who relies on a wheelchair for mobility, tried to book a seat on a bus between Sydney and Canberra. The company, Murrays Australia Ltd (Murrays), told Ms Haraksin they did not have any wheelchair accessible buses and so could not accept her booking.
Ms Haraksin, represented by PIAC, successfully took the case to the Federal Court. Ms Haraksin did not seek financial compensation, but rather sought orders from the Federal Court requiring Murrays to modify their vehicles to make them accessible to people using wheelchairs.
Ms Haraksin claimed that Murrays were in breach of the national Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Disability Standards). At the time, the Disability Standards required that 25 per cent of existing transport operator fleets be accessible by 2007 and that all newly purchased public transport vehicles be wheelchair accessible. By 2012, 55% of a transport operator’s fleet had to be accessible.
On 14 March 2013, the Federal Court ruled that Murrays had directly discriminated against Ms Haraksin and had breached national Disability Standards. The Court ordered that Murrays ensure at least 55% of its fixed route services between Sydney and Canberra be wheelchair accessible, unless unable to do so because of factors beyond Murrays’ control.
The case highlights the importance of public transport providers being aware of their obligations under the Disability Standards and ensuring that their services are accessible to people with disabilities.