Thursday, October 4, 2012

Disabled Pass Holder offloaded by Driver of Public Transport in UK

Dear Colleagues,

Persons with disabilities are often poked fun at for their disability and misbehaved with while using public transport in India and routinely in rural belt where transports systems are not well developed still. Many of such travelers hold their free or highly concessional travel passes from the State Transport Departments or Social Justice Departments which means they are often looked at as a customer who will not pay up for the travel and thus ridiculed and commented upon. This has been observed that the drivers of public transport do not stop when they see a disabled traveler waiting at the bus stop or do not align the bus with the bus bay or stop the bus much ahead of the bus bay to discourage use of public transport by the passengers with disabilities.

What has happened in UK with Ms. Jess McGee is horrifying and it is difficult to compensate for the loss of dignity and shock that she suffered during the travel. If the law, in public interest and for public safety, disallows her to drive, she has all the rights to be compensated for her loss of opportunities in her independent mobility and this is highly discouraging for persons with disabilities to use public transport if such incidences occur when they step out to work, education or for any other chore.

Such incidences generally go unreported in India, especially when it comes to road transport such as State Transport Buses, Metro Rail and Indian Railways. Though several disabled flyers have taken up issues of maltreatment and discrimination in the past (perhaps they had access to media and were from sound economic backgrounds!) when they were asked to sign a bond or not given facilities for safe and comfortable transfer despite paying a full fare.  However, not all persons living with disabilities have those means and access to media and thus things go unreported. We need a campaign across India to ensure dignity during travel for persons with disabilities.

Here is the coverage from Daily Mail, UK

  • Jess McGee, 19, left 'shocked and embarrassed' after the incident on her way to work in Bath, Somerset
  • She had no money but was saved by a kindly passenger who stepped in and paid her fare
  • Travel bosses say they are investigating

Jess McGee,19, from Bath, Somerset, was on her usual route to her job at a supermarket when she showed the driver her legal bus pass.

As an epilepsy sufferer she is registered disabled and is entitled to free travel on public transport because she cannot drive safely. The driver on board the number 13 service asked to take a closer look and then demanded to know her disability.

When she explained her condition he told her it was a 'p*** take' and ordered her to pay or get off the bus.
Jess wasn't carrying any money but was saved by a kindly passenger who stepped in and paid her fare.
She said: 'I felt very shocked and embarrassed.  'I was so shocked at the time that I didn’t feel I could put up an argument. 'People I have spoken to since have said all the things I should have said to him but at the time I just couldn’t.'

The incident happened when she tried to use her Diamond travel card from Bath and North East Somerset Council. Mum Penny fumed: 'I was just really outraged. 'She is totally reliant on public transport because she hasn’t got the option to drive. 'She has got a lot of barriers that have stopped her from doing things, but she is trying to live life to the full.

'It just made me angry that anybody could treat anybody like that.  'It was just absolutely none of his business what her disability was.'

A spokesman for operator First said: 'We will be getting in touch with Ms McGee as soon as possible to apologise for any distress she may have suffered.

'As part of our training programme we train all of our drivers in disability awareness and expect all our staff to recognise and respond to the range of different needs that our customers may have, this includes hidden disabilities such as epilepsy.

'However, we will be taking further steps to ensure that such an incident does not happen again.'

Read more:

No comments: