Disability awareness training has been ordered for 90 Bay Hopper bus drivers after humiliating incidents involving disabled passengers.
It culminated last week when Ashleigh Dixon, 21, was reduced to pushing aside her fringe to reveal an empty eye socket before the driver agreed to issue her a concession fare despite Miss Dixon showing him a Foundation for the Blind identity card.
The Bay of Plenty Times published Miss Dixon's story yesterday and Go Bus, the company contracted to operate Bay Hopper buses, is making arrangements for driving training with CCS Disability Action in a bid to prevent further complaints.
The organisation responsible for public transport in the Bay, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, has asked Go Bus to repeat the disability awareness training carried out when the company won the contract four years ago.
Garry Maloney, the council's transport policy manager, said he did not want passengers to be refused service or experience inappropriate behaviour from drivers. The risk of complaints such as Miss Dixon's was that people would take the stance that they did not want to use the buses.
"We need to lift drivers' disability awareness," Mr Maloney said.
The council received 31 complaints about drivers being rude to Tauranga passengers for the six months to December 31 2012. During that time the Bay Hopper buses carried 955,842 passengers.
He said he was always disappointed whenever someone had a bad experience with a driver.
Complaints were dealt with by hearing both sides of the story and if there was a problem with a driver, that was addressed. There were occasions when a driver or passenger were not having the best of days and someone said something they should not, he said. Sometimes the truth was somewhere in the middle.
Mr Maloney said he would have been unhappy to have experienced what Miss Dixon experienced.
Her complaints also included drivers responding rudely that they were not taxi drivers when she asked them to show her where to get off. On occasions she has ended up lost after missing her stop when a driver neglected to tell her where to get off the bus.
Go Bus regional operations manager Garry Bellamy said the company had identified the driver involved in last Thursday's incident with Miss Dixon and, as was normal with these investigations, the driver would have the opportunity to comment.
Mr Bellamy said the training would happen as soon as possible.
A Go Bus manager spoke with Miss Dixon yesterday.
December 2012: Sandra Chandler, off a cruise ship, was not allowed to put her mobility scooter on to a bus.
January: Jeremy and Justina Staines, a couple with cerebral palsy, were refused permission to take their wheelchairs on to a bus.
February & March: Peter Baker, on a four-wheel-drive wheelchair, was refused bus access and three weeks later managed to convince the driver to let him on.
March: Ashleigh Dixon, partially sighted, was humiliated and forced to reveal her empty eye socket before the driver agreed to issue her a concession ticket.