De Lijn found guilty of structural discrimination against people with disabilities

The civil court in Mechelen has found Flemish public transport operator De Lijn guilty of structural discrimination against people with disabilities. Four people who use wheelchairs took the company to court in November and are entitled to compensation of 650 euros.

Lawyer Johan Heymans, who represents the claimants and equal opportunities centre Unia, said the compensation was symbolic and that the key issue is the finding of discrimination. “This is an important decision that is very rare,” he said after the verdict on Tuesday. 

"Hopefully this time they will take the complaints seriously, otherwise, other victims of discrimination, which there undoubtedly are, will follow our example"

The complainants now want further discussions with De Lijn. “We have done that many times in the past, but hopefully this time they will take the complaints seriously,” Heymans said. “Otherwise, other victims of discrimination, which there undoubtedly are, will follow our example.”

The trial started on 7 November. The claimants said not every bus had an access ramp and drivers often didn't know how to use it. Some drivers refuse to pick up wheelchair users because it takes too much time, they said. The judge ruled that there were too many similarities between the cases to be coincidental. 

De Lijn has received the ruling and is studying it with its lawyers. “We are considering the possible next steps,” a spokesperson said. “We stand by our position that we, as De Lijn, do not discriminate and do everything possible to provide the best possible service for everyone.”



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