A disabled woman was left ‘fuming’ after a bus driver refused to move luggage from a disabled bay on his bus so that she could get on board with her wheelchair.
Emma Bryant, 21, had been shopping in Crawley town centre and was waiting for a No 10 Metrobus back to her home in Broadfield when the incident happened last week.
It follows a recent Supreme Court ruling that bus drivers should do more to accommodate wheelchair users.
Said Emma: “The first bus that came along couldn’t take me because it already had someone in a wheelchair on it, which is fair enough.
“The driver said the next bus along would be in about six minutes. When it arrived, the driver refused to take me because he had suitcases in the disabled bay. Basically, I’m fuming. He could have moved the suitcases. As it was I had to wait for a third bus.”
Emma has been a wheelchair user for the past three years since a condition with which she was born - joint hypermobility syndrome - has worsened. She also suffers from fibromyalgia which leaves her in constant pain.
“There are no excuses for what happened,” she said. “In my eyes, he was just being lazy. At the end of the day I don’t choose to have to rely on these things, but I have to and then you get people who can’t be accommodating. All I want is to get on a bus and get on with my life.”
Emma, who lives with her nan who is also her carer, said the incident was not the first time she had faced similar problems with pushchairs or bags blocking the disabled bay, or faulty bus ramps.
Metrobus managing director Martin Harris said: “We take accessibility needs extremely seriously – we’re the only bus company that employs a dedicated Accessibility Officer to help make bus travel accessible to everyone. So we’re very disappointed that we’ve not just let down a customer but ourselves.
“We made an error of judgement in this instance. We did not try hard enough to ask the passenger with a suitcase to vacate the space as we are now obliged to do following the recent Supreme Court ruling. We’re the only operator in the country which offers a guaranteed taxi service for anyone in a wheelchair who – for some reason – has not been able to board our bus.
“This passenger should not have been left at the bus stop. We have extended our sincere apologies to her when we met her last week to discuss what we’re doing to prevent a recurrence. Ordinarily we go to great lengths to ensure our buses are accessible accessible including reversing our policy of installing automated ramps as soon as we realised they were prone to breaking down. Instead we’re having them replaced with manual ones.”