Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Clambering upon the cyber-soap box...

Hello, Bloglanders!

I thought that if I were going to have a blog, I might as well use it for something good, something that has the potential to affect change.

A few weeks ago, I had an experience with regional transportation wherein I was discriminated against and abused. I thought that I would post that letter, in hopes of creating awareness...

Stand for something, or you'll fall for least that's what I was told.

Emund Burke once said, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Evil will not triumph, because I will not stand by and do nothing. I sincerely hope that after reading this, that you will stand up and do something.... for the benefit of all - not just people with disabilities...

     My name is Little Miss Sunshine. I am writing to draw your attention to an issue I believe to be of grave concern. I want to register a formal complaint regarding the conduct of persons under your employ.
     I am a regular user of the GO Transit system, and have been for some time. As a rider with a physical disability, I routinely utilize accessible service features. I have been subjected to public discrimination and humiliation and verbal abuse as a direct result of conduct of GO Transit employees.
     I am a student at Clown College in the Developmental Services Worker program. I am currently enrolled in a class there, which is offered in Brampton on Saturdays.
     Prior to enrolling in this class, I spoke with a GO Transit Customer Service agent; explained my needs and confirmed accessibility. I was assured, in the presence of others, that accessible features are available and that I could take advantage of them.
     On three prior occasions, I have travelled to Brampton via the GO bus for this class, arriving and departing at the downtown terminal with no issues.
     On April 17, 2010, however, this was not the case.
     I arrived at the Brampton terminal at 1455h. I informed the Transit worker that I required assistance advising the driver on the 1530h (Express Service to Union Station) bus that I was a passenger with special needs.
     This is in accordance with GO Transit’s Accessibility Policy requiring fifteen minutes advance notice for passengers with disabilities.
     The Brampton Transit worker was unable to do this as he, nor Brampton Transit has any connection with GO Transit. He advised me to wait at the platform and inform the driver upon arrival.
     The driver arrived late, at 1540h. He loaded all other passengers, then asked me if “they dropped me off here by mistake”.
      I stated that I wanted to board the bus. He attempted to leave.
      I asked why I was not permitted boarding. He stated that he would have to call his Supervisor.
      I informed him that I had taken the bus that morning. I stated that I paid for a ticket, and therefore demanded boarding.
      He again refused, saying that his Supervisor was en route. I asked him how he expected that I should return to Toronto if I was being denied boarding. I asked for his employee number.
      He refused to provide it. I was told that I did not have a “good enough reason” for requesting it.
      The driver began honking his horn repeatedly in the direction of a police officer across the street. He honked his horn a total of eight times, calling out to the officer.
      He stated that his Supervisor had informed him that the Brampton Terminal was not wheelchair accessible, and therefore he was not required to permit boarding.
      This assertion is in direct contradiction to statements I have received from GO representatives at Union Station, the GO Transit website, and the public schedule that is posted at Brampton Transit Terminal.
       I asked for his employee number. I asked for his employee number a total of 13 times, all of which he refused. Several times he asked me what I wanted it for, why I needed it.
       Upon being refused the thirteenth time, a female passenger stepped off of the bus and began screaming at me. Her statements are as follows:

“I paid for an Express Bus. Now I am going to be late. I am going to be late because of you. I hope that you are happy.”

“Everyone on this bus is going to be late because of you. Now I am fifteen minutes late because of your foolishness. I hope that you are happy, you selfish bitch. Are you happy now?”

“All of you crippled people are exactly the same. You don’t deserve to be sucking air.”

     The passenger in question was pointing at me, shaking her finger at me aggressively and standing far too close to me for me to feel safe. The driver made no attempts or movements to stop or interrupt her.
     I told the driver that what was happening was inappropriate and that he should not condone her behviour. He responded with the following statement:

“Speaking to you like what? She is just responding to the way that you are carrying on”.

     The entire incident was witnessed by a busload of people.
     Several passengers were disturbed to the point that they exited the bus and advised the Brampton Transit employee of the situation. On arrival at the loading bay, he took down route and bus information.
     He was also refused upon request for the driver’s employee number.
     The bus departed, the driver stating that his Supervisor was on the way, and would “deal with me”. I waited at least twenty five minutes for supervisory attention. Two additional accessible buses departed at that time, both refusing boarding, stating that “the supervisor is on the way.”
      I spoke with Mr. Bus Driver, Supervisor, Bus Operations (West Region), at 1617h. I relayed the entire incident to him.
      Mr. Bus Driver’s comments were limited, aside from the fact that he “would love to see the public schedule”, to confirm what I was told at Union Station almost a month prior to my first trip. He asked if I had one in my possession that he might look at. I did not.
     I felt as though Mr. Bus Driver's was accusing dishonesty, though he did make every effort to improve the situation and its end result for me.
     He informed the that the bus drivers are not required to provide their employee numbers, and that in future I should take note of the bus number as an alternative.
     Mr. Bus Driver’s solution to this issue was to run a separate bus to Union Station. I was loaded and boarded at the Brampton Terminal. This brings the assertion that the terminal is not accessible entirely into question.
     This should also raise important fiduciary concern for you, sir. Where is the economic sense in denying transportation to a paying ticket holder and then incurring the cost of running a separate, empty bus for the same ticket holder?
     The sensible option, of course, is the obvious one. Had I been permitted boarding, the issue in question would be non existent. It is my firm belief that the issue here lies not in the accessibility of the terminal, but the work required to ensure that vehicles that using those terminals, are made accessible.
     As C.E.O. of a company, Mr. CEO, I am sure you can understand the importance of happy customers. Happy customers are repeat customers.
      I cannot say that I will refrain from using GO Transit. This is not an existent possibility. If I cannot be a happy customer, I expect to be a customer free from abuse and discrimination. Denial of service on the basis of accessibility - when the facilities are clearly present and obvious to anyone is unacceptable.
     I will continue to advocate with respect to this issue. As a passenger, and human being, I should not be subjected abuse and discrimination as a consequence of purchasing services from your company.
     I respectfully request a written response to this complaint.

I welcome your thoughts.

I should also mention that italicized text has been changed to protect  the innocent...namely me, from well, unpleasant things.

I will step down from my cyber-soap box now. But I feel a certain vindication in using such a widely accessible forum for something good.

Take care, my friends. Please, stand up with one another; fight together. If it happens to one, it happens to all...

All my love to each of you.

Little Miss Sunshine...