Photo: Flickr; Oran Viriyincy

Stagecoach accused of discrimination

An employee working for a major bus company serving Warwick students has been accused of discrimination against a disabled student.

A Stagecoach employee is alleged to have denied a wheelchair user access onto the 10.50pm service from Warwick University to Leamington Spa on 6 February 2013.

A wheelchair user was among a number of individuals attempting to board the crowded Unibus at the Arts Centre stop, but was allegedly prevented from boarding by the employee due to the presence of another wheelchair user already aboard the service.

An argument took place between the employee and student, with the several options put forward, such as temporarily storing the chair whilst its owner made use of one of the chairs reserved for disabled passengers, dismissed.

After insisting only one wheelchair user could board the service at any time, the Stagecoach employee then permitted able-bodied people to board the bus, leading to accusations of ableism.

Further issues students have found include a lack of services between Warwick University and Leamington Spa, despite efforts made by Stagecoach at the beginning of the current academic year to increase the number of Unibus services they provide.

Welfare and campaigns officer at Warwick Students’ Union (SU), Cathryn Turhan, was unhappy about the treatment of the disabled student in question.

Speaking to the Boar, she commented: “We are shocked by the account of a disabled student discriminated against by Stagecoach staff.

“The University have made a complaint to Stagecoach and we are eager to see the outcome of this.

“Above all, we want to see a better deal for people with disabilities.”

Sam Fry, disabled students’ officer for Warwick SU, agreed with Ms Turhan.

“I am very disappointed that Stagecoach have such limited access arrangements for wheelchair users.

“In addition, buses come very infrequently when it’s late, so if a bus isn’t accessible it means a long wait for the next one.

“This situation isn’t acceptable and I hope Stagecoach change their behaviour quickly.”

Steve Burd, managing director for Stagecoach Midlands, was quick to defend the decision of the Stagecoach inspector.

“Although our inspector was not able to allow a second unfolded wheelchair to board, he was in a position to permit further able-bodied passengers to get on the bus as it was not yet at its full capacity.

“The wheelchair user who was already on board the bus had no legs and could not get out of his wheelchair and fold it up.

“The second wheelchair who wished to board had a large motorised wheelchair which could not be folded.

“Had the second passenger had a normal sized wheelchair and been able to fold it and board the vehicle unaided, then our inspector would have made room for it.

“All the new vehicles which Stagecoach Midlands orders are fully Disability Discrimination Act compliant.”

Second-year Maths student Stephen Smith commented: “It’s hardly discrimination; the employee was clearly just following the rules of his job.”

Joe Baker, a second-year Philosophy undergraduate, added: “I think the wheelchair user is within his/her rights to claim there should be more space on Unibuses, but not that they should have been let on in this instance, particularly if it was unsafe for the inspector to do so.”

President of Warwick Enable, Andrew Thompson, responded.

“Myself and the SU disabled students’ officer are bringing a motion to the Student Council on Monday which will mandate our sabbatical officers to lobby bus companies to make sure that they adequately cater for disabled students, so that they are not treated like second-class citizens.”

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Comments (6)

  • What a loaded article. There was no space on the bus for another wheelchair user but then he ‘allowed able bodied people on the bus’ so he’s ableist? The buses already provide allocated room for a wheelchair; if that space is taken by another wheelchair user then the bus can’t allow another one one because there is nowhere to put it. So would this writer rather that the safety of the rest of the passengers is put at risk by a stray wheelchair user just to satisfy this demand? It’s stupid. The driver was clearly not being discriminatory.

  • No space for another wheelchair, simple. Equal ops/being treated the same etc also includes not being able to board buses when full. End of

  • Thevicar1968

    As a bus driver for over 20 years let’s get it right first shall we. First off you could could of carried this passenger but let’s face it health and safety stopped you that’s what it all boils down too but I have to say I would of carried the passenger if he was able to get his bum on a seat, if I was the last bus or the busses where every hour and driven the bus at an appropriate speed and manner

  • I would have thought it obvious that the bus driver was only doing his job. He has to drive the bus he’s given. If there are a lot of people needing wheelchair access then I think the SU would be better occupied raising funds for thier own rival bus or trying to make other arrangements. Not bullying some poor bloke who was in a difficult position.

    If it is a regularish problem, then the bus company needs to have a think, or at the very lease arrange for the driver to be able to summons additional transport on a welfare basis.

    As for “then permitted able-bodied people to board the bus” that is just a stupid thing to say.

  • What was the bus driver supposed to do? The article offers no solutions. He is no magician, he couldn’t have created more space for the wheelchair had he tried as hard as he could. He offered a few solutions, all of which were rejected. He’s doing his job, he simply couldn’t let on another wheelchair user, not because of discrimination, but because of lack of space.

  • If you read the original blog complaint here: the suggestion is that the bus driver let on more able-bodied people than was allowed by the capacity clearly signed on the bus.

    This witness claims “The Stagecoach employee then proceeded to let abled people onto the bus until it was completely rammed. The official limit for individuals standing (according to a nice big sign on the bus) was 17, in the case of no wheelchair and minimal baggage being present. I noted plenty of baggage, a wheelchair, 28 people standing and three people sitting on the stairs. The bus was quite clearly over capacity, and dangerously so.”

    – this totally changes the perimeters of the story, and this claim should have been included in the article.

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