Rights of persons with disabilities and reduced mobility in the EU and Croatian transport law

  • Rights of persons with disabilities and reduced mobility in the EU and Croatian transport law

    Authors: Prof. Dorotea Ćorić, Dr. Iva Tuhtan Grgić


    Passengers are, over the past ten years, placed at the heart of the European transport policy. Within the realm of passengers’ rights, and in order to provide equal opportunities for travel across all modes of transport to all citizens, special attention was given to the world’s largest minority group – people with disabilities. The establishment of an appropriate legal framework for passengers with disabilities is in a line with requirements of the Art. 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Art. 26 of the Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union. Moreover, in its transport policies  European legislator went one step further by deciding to ensure the same set of rights to all those ‘whose situation needs special attention and adaptation to the person’s needs of the services made available to other passengers.’ In order to achieve this objective, rights of disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility are regulated in several regulations, covering all modes of transport. The first and the only one exclusively devoted to these passengers regulated the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility in air transport dates from the 2006. In the following five years, modelled after this regulations, special chapters were adopted in all regulations governing passengers’ rights. In spite of their direct applicability not only on the carriage of passengers between Member States of the European Union, but also on the domestic carriage, the level of protection differs in certain modes of transport. This is partly due to the limited scope of application of specific regulation (for example in transport by road, sea and inland waterways) and partly due to the fact that Republic of Croatia granted exemptions from the application of certain provisions (for example, in the transport by rail, the provision on compensation in respect of mobility equipment or other specific equipment).

    A comparative review of applicable provisions in all modes of transport showed that there is the common core of rights (in different shades) guaranteed to passengers with reduced mobility: non-discriminatory access to transport, right to free of charge assistance both, on terminals and ports as well as on board of the vehicles, right to information in accessible formats. These common rights may be restricted under specifically prescribed circumstances which should be interpreted very narrowly, so as to avoid abuse. With the aim to ensure proper implementation of the EU passenger rights, all Regulations contain provisions relating to the enforcement and complaint procedure, but the certain degree of harmonization of the complaint regimes between transport modes is desirable.

    The purpose of this research is to examine the extent of the achievement of their rights to free movement. Fragmented approach to traveling rights of persons with disabilities and reduced mobility resulted in numerous differences in those regimes. Some of them are consequences of the specificities of the different transport sectors. However, there are some rules whose appliance in all modes of transport could enhance the quality of protection of passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility. Thus the adoption of coherent and standardised rules across modes of transport is warranted.