“I was humiliated.” Student in wheelchair alleges she was not let on bus because driver didn’t have time to help with wheelchair ramp
A student with a disability says she was left ‘humiliated’ after claiming that she was denied entry onto a public bus because the driver was ‘running late’ and didn’t have time to help with the wheelchair ramp. University student Sarah Richards has been in a wheelchair since the age of two due to a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, which means she has extremely brittle bones that break very easily.
Student in wheelchair said she is usually treated with respect
The 21-year-old from Brisbane, Australia said she has always taken public transport since starting at the University of Queensland back in 2018 and is usually treated with kindness and respect during these journeys.
However, Sarah explained that there have been times where she feels she has been discriminated against due to her disability – the latest occurring just last month [May 27].
While on her way to a class, the student said she made her way down to a bus that was pulling up at the Eight Mile Plains stop – but noticed the door with the wheelchair ramp she needs was in front of a garden.
Upon alerting the bus driver, Sarah claims he became annoyed – telling her she would need to get the next service because he was already ‘running late’ and was unable to reverse.
She said: “I have always been treated pretty well while taking buses. There has been an occasional driver who will roll his eyes or sigh when asking me if I need the ramp.
“But twice in the last month I’ve had negative experiences due to my disability.
“At the moment due to COVID-19, the bus drivers will only let people on through the second door, unless they need the ramp.
“So I think there is an assumption by most drivers that most of the time there won’t be anyone needing it.
“People with prams, people who had recent heart attacks, elderly people, people in wheelchairs. We all need to use the ramps when catching public transport.
“I saw the bus coming, so I went to get on but I saw the front door was parked right in front of some bushes.
“I tried to get his attention, and let him know I needed this bus. But he basically indicated that he wouldn’t let me on.
“He was still allowing people to board through the back door, but wasn’t allowing me to get on.”
Sarah said that after pleading with the bus driver, he finally decided to come back around and let her board the bus.
The student in the wheelchair basically had to beg the driver
She said: “After basically begging him, he said he would go back and turn around.
“He was rolling his eyes and sighing, it was evident that he was very annoyed.
“When I finally got in, he scolded me and said I should have been at the stop earlier.
“I said well next time you should park better.
“The bus was not schedule to leave until 9.35am, and I was there ready to get on at 9.34am. I was on time.
“After I boarded, he then yelled at everyone ‘hurry up, we are going to be late now!’
“It was humiliating. It wasn’t fair that he was blaming me.”
“People who do not need to use wheelchairs wouldn’t be spoken to like that and they wouldn’t have to ask to be let on.”
The young woman claims that unfortunately this was not the first time that this had occurred.
She said: “The previous time this happened was about a month ago and it was the same problem.
“The driver parked too far forward and could not let down the ramp.
“He told me that I’d need to wait and get the next one. I argued with him and he finally let me on.
“He rolled his eyes at me and asked the other bus drivers to watch while he reversed.”
While Sarah did call Translink who offered an apology, she believes there needs to be more training in this area to help drivers better understand the needs of disabled passengers.
It is discrimination against people in wheelchairs
She added: “It is complete discrimination in my eyes.
“I called Translink and they told me I should have been at the stop earlier. did receive an apology, but they also told me I should be there earlier.
“It is very frustrating. If this has happened to me, I’m sure it has happened to others.
“I hope that Translink might do better in educating their drivers.
“People with disabilities can’t always vocalise their concerns.
“It is easy to feel that we can’t defend ourselves and that we are looked down upon due to our disabilities.
“Everyone has a right to catch public transport, no matter what.”