Disabled woman not allowed on bus with her wheelchair

Disabled woman left in the rain by bus drivers

Lucy Wright Wednesday, August 17, 2011
6:30 AM

 Gail Baverstock with her broken wheelchair.; Photo: Bill Smith
Gail Baverstock with her broken wheelchair.; Photo: Bill Smith

A disabled woman has told of her anger after two bus drivers refused to let her board and left her waiting in the pouring rain. 

Gail Baverstock, 60, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, was forced to wait an hour and a half before a driver helped her. She said that two buses showing the disabled badge pulled up and after everyone had boarded, she moved so the drivers could lower the ramp, but instead they ignored her and closed the door. Bus company First says it has “taken the appropriate action” against the drivers.

Miss Baverstock, who lives in Thorpe St Andrew, said: “I wanted to get on the bus. I allowed the walking passengers to get on first and then I moved my chair closer to the door and they closed it with no explanation. The bus driver didn’t speak to me. It’s not nice to be ignored.”

After getting soaked in the rain, Miss Baverstock’s wheelchair stopped working and she is now unable to leave her room.

She added: “I pay my fare like any other passenger. I do not expect people to treat me like I am invisible just because I use a wheelchair. I was angry. I want to be treated like a normal person. Yes I need a ramp, but is that too much to ask? Anybody could end up in my position.”

Miss Baverstock had spent the day shopping and was trying to get the number 19 bus from Castle Meadow to Heartsease on August 4. She said: “I was told by a passenger that there were no wheelchairs or pushchairs on the bus and there was no reason for me not to get home. I was shocked that in this day and age people still aren’t comfortable with disabled needs. To me it’s my daily life – it’s not anything new. It’s sad. I’m no different from anyone else, just because I’m on wheels. I have been disabled all my life.”

A spokesman for First said: “Our Customer Service Team received contact from Miss Baverstock on August 12 and we have acknowledged her comments. It is our company policy to assist passengers in wheelchairs where possible. The actions of the drivers concerned have been investigated and appropriate action has been taken against them. We would like to apologise to Miss Baverstock for the inconvenience caused.”


3 Responses to Disabled woman not allowed on bus with her wheelchair

  1. Maggie says:

    As a wheelchair user, Maggie is my wife as well as my carer, I can certainly sympathise with Gail. Only last week First sent out two buses on (different days) that as far as conforming to the travel requirements of the the Disable Persons Act were well short of the requirements to comply.

    On Wednesday, 10th August, 2011, I was waing for the 17:37 at Castle Meadow and when it arrived the driver apoligised that the ramp was not working – fortunately the last bus – the18:01 – did have a working ramp. On Friday the 12th August 2011, a bus rolled up at the Castle Meadow bus stop for the 12A (again) this time the driver told me he did not have a ramp at all and would I have to catch a leter bus. When I asked why he had taken out a bus that was ‘faulty’ his reply was “it’s not faulty it just doesn’t have a ramp that works.” Again I asked why he had brought the bus out and this time he said it was the they had given him. The bus driver then sat at the stop for a further five minutes. I rang Maggie and told her what had happened and that I would nbe late back from Norwich (this was stop her worrying) during this private conversation I told Maggie I thought he was unhelp and possibly evil. When I rang off he camer to the edage of the bus and asked why I said he was evil. (Bear in mind this was a converation some five to six feet from his bus and I was not shouting. My reply to himwas that was my opinion of him and asked for his number so that I could verify the route to First and also complain about them sending a bus out that was not suitable for a disabled person. He refused to give me his number as he had done “nothing wrong” (he kept repeating this and saying he did not need to check a bus allocated to him). When he had driven off I got in touch with First and a ‘manager’ rang me back on my mobile and I duly told him what had happened. He promised he would investigate my complaint and agreed that the bus SHOULD NOT have been taken out. He also said that ALL drivers have a duty to do a ‘pre-trip check’ among the things they have to check is that ALL mechanical parts are working properly – not just the motor and the breaks but the ramps as well and they are not supposed to take the bus out if it is faulty.

    As I said he promised he would contact me and so far I have heard ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

    Dave Chandler

  2. Liz Rankine says:

    Doesn’t surprise me in the least, Firstbuses number 19 is my local service. We had one driver who refused to let us on, I was already halfway on – I ignored him and placed Dad and his wheelchair in the dedicated space. There followed a long stand-off -driver insisting we get off, us refusing to do so… we were at the stop so long one or two passengers got off thinking the bus had broken down. he threatened to call the police… I told him go ahead.. he settled for calling the depot, rather peeved on being told he had to take us… He was not a happy “bunny”.

    In 2007, the week of the Norfolk Show four buses came with steps one after the other, every 15 mins so that took over an hour… we eventually got on the Wroxham bus with me having to push the wheelchair over half a mile home. That resulted in a long letter to my local paper who to their credit published it in full … in seven days prior to this over half the busses that came had been inacessible to wheelchair users. The bus company couldn’t understand why I hadn’t contacted them first .. I refer to the last paragraph of Dave Chandlers comment.

    Others: being told “the ramp doesn’t work” – it was a manual one and I got the ramp down myself, much to the annoyance of the driver. The bus not pulling in properly and refusing to move up to the kerb though they did lower the ramp it was too steep as we handn’t yet got a powerpack. A young lad in the queue took charge and heaved the wheelchair up the ramp and parked it on the bus himself.

    Just to end on a positive note though, we did have just one ocassion when the driver offered to get the wheelchair on and off the bus… I think maybe it was an “angel” working on their day off ?

  3. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

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