Editorial: Wake up call for bus drivers

By Dylan Thorne

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What's going on with Tauranga's bus drivers?

Yesterday, we reported on Ashleigh Dixon's unpleasant experience when trying to use her disability ID card on a Bay Hopper bus.

The partially-sighted Tauranga woman was reduced to pushing aside her fringe to reveal an empty eye socket before a bus driver agreed to issue her a concession fare.

Miss Dixon presented her Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind ID card to the driver that should have entitled her to the equivalent of a student fare. Instead, the driver looked at the card and said: "Foundation for the Blind - you don't look blind."

Miss Dixon, a volunteer teacher aide, also recalled instances where drivers had told her to read the sign on the side of the bus when she had asked where the bus was going.

Miss Dixon should not have had to illustrate her blindness to the driver. The concession should have been given as soon as she showed her ID card.

This is not the first time, Bay Hopper drivers have hit headlines for the dealings with passengers with disabilities.

Last month, we reported on a husband and wife with cerebral palsy who said they had to use taxis for transport after being refused entry on a Bay Hopper bus and disabled Papamoa man Peter Baker, 54, has taken his case to the Human Rights Commission after twice being denied access on buses because of his wheelchair.

After the incident, Minister of Disability Issues Tariana Turia called on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to ensure Go Bus drivers knew how to provide good customer service to every user and that they must not refuse service to any disabled person, including wheelchair users, where a bus was accessible.

Judging by Miss Dixon's experience, the message is yet to get through to some drivers.

Go Bus regional operations director Darryl Bellamy said he was disappointed to learn of Miss Dixon's experience.

Go Bus has organised disability awareness training for 90 Bay Hopper bus drivers following the series of humiliating incidents involving disabled passengers.

Miss Dixon's treatment was appalling and hopefully the training will ensure it does not happen again. The negative publicity these incidents generate should provide the incentive for the company to ensure its drivers to ensure that all passengers are treated with respect.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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