Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

If You Cant Walk You Cant Board - Wheelchair-Bound Athletes Endure Disgraceful Discrimination

19 Aug 2011Last weekend was the 39th Annual Falmouth Road Race, held in Massachusetts, where around ten thousand runners compete for the winning title each year. The race also has a wheelchair division, where devoted wheelchair athletes propel themselves along the 7 mile stretch of road.

This year however, the race attracted more attention, perhaps for all the wrong reasons. There have been four separate claims of disability discrimination against some of the wheelchair athletes, from the Peter Pan Bus Company.

Michael Mills, from Atlanta, said that he phoned ahead a few days prior to organise a wheelchair accessible bus to be available to collect him from Logan International Airport. Despite this, when Michael wheeled up to the Peter Pan bus, he could see that it wasn't accessible to him. The driver said; can you walk? when Michael said no the driver replied if you can't walk, you can't get on my bus. Michael claims that when he offered to crawl onto the bus, the rude driver advised Michael to see customer service, and then proceeded to shut the doors and drive off, leaving Michael without a ride.

Michael said that he wasn't too perturbed about the incident, until he started talking with some of the other wheelchair athletes, who admitted to having similar experiences with the same bus company. After discussing their stories, the four competitors are considering taking legal action against the bus company for discrimination.

Fifty year old Sandra Rush stated that she wheeled up to the bus she was boarding, and the driver gave her a look of distaste once he saw that she was in a wheelchair. He asked can you walk? when Sandra replied that she couldn't, the driver said Jesus Christ..... do you know how long it's going to take to board you?, Sandra said the driver and a fellow passenger ended up carrying her and her chair onto the bus. She recalls I felt like an inconvenience.

Thirty five year old Chad Johnson had possibly encountered the worst case of discrimination with Peter Pan buses on the way to the race, and believes that he had the same driver as Michael. Before the bus driver loaded Chad's racing chair into the buses storage compartment, he advised the driver that to maximize space and protect the expensive chair, he would be best to place it in upside down.

The driver ignored Chad's advice, and when they arrived to their destination, one of the tyres were punctured, and a fender (guard) was cracked. When Chad pointed out the damage to the bus driver, he simply replied this bus is for passengers and luggage, not for you people and whatever that is as he pointed to the racing chair. Chad said that after yelling some obscenities to the driver, he wheeled to the car park of the hotel he was staying at and just sat there for a minute and cried a little bit. He says it was definitely the worst treatment I ever received because of my chairs.

Finally, thirty year old Matthew Porterfield, who was travelling with his wife and one year old daughter, had to be carried on and off the bus, because the bus driver said it would take an hour to use the ramp. Then on his trip back home, he said the Peter Pan staff couldn't figure out how to operate the ramp.

Tony Andrade, who is Peter Pan's director of operations between Logan and Falmouth, said that he doubted the claims of the four athletes, and in response to Michael Mills complaint, said the way this man said the driver yelled at him, that's not true. We don't train our drivers that way.

Vice President of Peter Pan buses, Frank Dougherty, said that they are investigating the complaints, but that they are extraordinarily unusual.

The motto on Peter Pan Bus Company's website reads: Connecting people and places, maybe it should read: Connecting people and places.... Unless you're in a wheelchair, then we can't be bothered. What would you do if you were in these four athletes situations? I say that people should boycott Peter Pan buses, until their disability standards and attitudes are adjusted. Fancy having ramps available on buses, but the staff doesn't know how to use them, or they don't want the hassle of having to take them out. Shame on them, they shouldn't offer wheelchair assistance if they can't deliver.

To view the original story from the Cape Cod Times click here: http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20110818%2FNEWS%2F108180314

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