Couple forced to use taxis after refusal at bus stop

By Kiri Gillespie

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A husband and wife with cerebral palsy say they use taxis for transport after being refused on a Bay Hopper bus.

Justina Staines, 32, is wheelchair-bound and husband Jeremy Staines, 38, uses a walking frame to get around most days.

Support worker Max Allen said the Staines felt compelled to tell their story after reading in the Bay of Plenty Times about disabled man Peter Baker being twice refused access on to a bus because he was in a wheelchair.

"It's important you know that that was not an isolated incident," Mr Allen said, speaking on behalf of the couple.

"They tried getting on to a bus out the front of where they live, at the bottom of Pyes Pa, and were told, 'We don't take your sort on here'."

"We are talking about a couple who don't have any intellectual disability, so you can imagine how they felt about it."

The incident had happened about six weeks ago.

Mr Allen complained to Go Bus, the company that operates Bay Hopper buses, and was told the incident would never happen again.

"But the couple are so embarrassed for it to happen again, they don't even want to try," he said.

"I want this to end. These guys have a right to be on it."

From their Pyes Pa home yesterday, Mr Staines said he was angry and hurt at the driver's comment. He and Mrs Staines have limited speed capabilities.

"I said to Justina, 'Do you want to go to Bayfair'? She said, 'Yes', and it came and he goes to me and Justina, 'We can't take your wheelchair on the bus', and I was pissed off. He said, 'We don't take your sort'," Mr Staines said.

It was not the first time Ms Staines had been refused bus access at the bus stop in Pyes Pa Rd, she said.

Last October, she said she was refused access.

"I got really mad. I don't like people talking about me like that," she said.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council transport policy manager Garry Maloney said the Staines' incident was "very disappointing" and he would be discussing the lack of awareness of people with disabilities with Go Bus, which operates Bay Hopper buses. "We don't want passengers to be left behind, whether they are disabled or not. It's not good," Mr Maloney said.

A Go Bus spokesman did not return phone calls yesterday.

The Tauranga City Council is beginning the first stages of a Disability Strategy this month.

The project will be a long-term plan designed to remove barriers so people with disabilities can be included in everyday life and be more independent.


Have you experienced discrimination on public buses because of a disability? Please email news@bayofplentytimes.co.nz with your contact details.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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