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Bus driver subjects disability activist to humiliating discrimination

[Image: Getty.]

I don’t know Paula Peters personally, but everyone in the UK who has a disability should be aware of her activism, fighting government changes to benefit conditionality, fighting injustice against people who are forced to endure pain and prejudice through no fault of their own, and trying to make the UK a country in which life for the disabled is bearable, despite Conservative government policy.

If conditions for people with disabilities is any more bearable today than the Tories intended when they came back into office in 2010, it is because of Ms Peters and people like her.

If you don’t believe me, just type her name into This Site’s search box and read about a few of the initiatives in which she has taken part.

What follows is an example of the way she is treated, because she has a disability. It is deeply unpleasant; it is a stain upon our lives as citizens of the UK today.

Why do we sit quietly and tolerate this abuse?

It has taken a week for me to write this as was too upset to put this into words. I want to share this with you all now.

This is an experience I had on the R3 bus last wednesday morning 16th August 2017 at 10.40 am.

I had chaos with me. I call my tri rollerator walker Chaos. I give names to my mobility equipment, it helps me deal with the fact I need the equipment as part of my every day life.

I need to use chaos as unsteady on my feet due to POTS and lots of other health issues. Its not much fun falling over with no warning.

Chaos has a seat so I can sit down when i need to rest. I can fold it up when required to do so.

I often take chaos into the wheelchair space when no wheelchair user is using the space a) to keep the walk way free so other passengers can get to the back of the bus and b) more room for me to get in and out of the bus easily and somewhere for me to sit down. I would move for a wheelchair user if required to do so. I never get offered a seat in priority seating or one easy for me to access. I have often experienced abuse on the bus when asked, which has left me distressed. There have been times I have been threatened with physical violence, called a scrounger, fraudster and worse. I have to say not one person on the bus came to my aid on those occasions.

Anyway, last week experience on the R3. I waited for the bus to arrive at my local stop. Doors opened, driver saw my walker and immediately looked behind her at the wheelchair space where a pram was already parked to see if i could get in. There was plenty of room for me, but could see the driver was not happy about me boarding the bus and tutted loudly when I did so. As I went past her to access the space I got fucking disabled people should not be allowed on any bus.

I ignored it, not the first time I have had that to be honest, and before bus drivers on my wall have a go at me, not every bus driver is like this, and I have met many who are lovely people go the extra mile and i see first hand the abuse they get from passengers every day and feel for many of them.

So I get in the wheelchair space. I sit on my tri rollerator and another pram user comes on behind me and immediately goes into wheelchair space. I said to driver there is a pram already here and myself. There was not room to swing a cat. I get told aggressively by driver the space is for wheelchairs and I can move fold up my tri rollerator and sit on a seat. Well there were no seats for me to sit in where i had access to fold up chaos and keep the tri rollerator out of the way and I could not access the back of the bus.

Driver then thought I was being awkward and decided to switch off her engine. I took my headphones out of my ears and said to her what is the problem? Got told to move. I said I have no where to move to and as wheelchair user is not on the bus i am in the right space for my mobility equipment.

I then get threatened to be removed from the bus! By the driver! I told her she was discriminating against me and not taking my access requirements into account and putting my safety at risk. I then get screamed at which triggers my anxiety and has me on the verge of tears.

I get out my notebook to make a note of the date and the time and get the bus driver’s number located at door. MB 321 a metrobus bus. So time 10.40 am 16th August 2017 Wednesday 2017 in case anyone here thinks I am making this story up which I am not. I have a friend of mine who can back up this story who saw me in deep distress within two minutes getting of the busl later on as I was shaking like a jelly and in tears.

Because I got out my notebook to make a note of the time and date, I then get abuse from the passengers and accused of being rude to the driver. I can assure you now I was not, but the driver screamed at me and I got sworn at by three passengers.

I am sick and tired of having a daily battle to access public transport. Sick and tired of being looked at like I am a fraudster and I don’t need need a mobility aid. Well, people want to try living with what I have see the pain I am in on a daily basis with RA, Fibro POTS and the balance problems I experience on an hourly basis, and the severe and enduring mental health issues I have on top of all of that.

I often feel anxious leaving the house, mainly because I do not feel safe when leaving the house because a I can fall and hurt myself, but mainly because of people’s appalling attitudes towards disabled people like myself.

I did not ask for my disability. No one does. All I want to do is live my life, access services and public transport and go about my way. Life is made all that much harder because of incidents like this.

Needless to say I have not used the local bus again. I do not feel safe to do and it has ramped my anxiety up.

To the bus company, while you have many good drivers, you also have ones who need to seriously have updated disability equality and awareness training and one driver’s bad attitude gives the company a bad name.

Anyone can become disabled. Anyone. It can happen to the bus driver. In the world we are living in now and the high rate of stress, she could have a break down. No one is immune from that.

I am scared to complain due to retribution. I took a risk to write this because I am frightened of a back lash. But, if I do not write and share my experiences and show just how bad things are getting how can i encourage anyone else to.

I feel deeply sad, disappointed by people’s attitudes, but most of all scared. It is getting to the stage due to the reheotric, in large part due to the government propaganda in our media that has caused such huge divisions in society that has seen an implosion of hate crime towards disabled people and society thinking we deserve to be treated in this way.

I have rights, I am a human being and I will not stay silent on incidents such as this any longer.

I am glad Ms Peters had the presence of mind to note the details of the bus, the date and time – and I have no problem with re-publishing them here. Let the driver be identified; let us see how the bus company handles prejudice by its employees.

Let us all remember: Bus companies are legally obliged to give priority to wheelchair users over mothers with baby buggies after a court ruling in January; that ruling is pointless if they continue discriminating against other people with disabilities.

And if any of us witness the same, I hope we have the courage to stand up and support the disabled person. These ugly incidents happen because good people do nothing, and that makes them complicit.

Don’t be complicit.

Set a better example.

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