A WHEELCHAIR user from Portsmouth has accused a bus company of ‘discrimination’ after three drivers refused to allow her to board their buses.
Kathryn MacDonald was left stranded in the middle of the city after being told she would need a permit to travel on First Bus services using her electronic vehicle.
The incident, which happened on Friday, meant she was unable to catch the bus to the Queen Alexandra to visit her husband, and was forced to fork out for a taxi instead.
She said: ‘The bus pulled up, and the driver came out and asked if I had a permit to travel on there.
‘People had joked about that kind of thing before and he was just having fun, so I said that I didn’t.
‘But he said I could not get on, because if someone was to injure themselves he could lose his licence.’
After the bus drove away Kathryn, 46, was left on her own at the stop on Lake Road, and was barred from getting on two more buses for the same reason.
She eventually went home and ordered a taxi to the hospital, paying £14 for a one-way trip rather than the £4 return bus ticket.
She said: ‘People on the bus and at the stop were saying it was ridiculous. There was screaming and yelling.
‘The driver did not explain. He said he could lose his job but I had never heard of such a thing.’
Kathryn, who is unable to walk because of a neuromuscular condition, contacted First Bus to complain and was told the rule on permits had been in place for ‘three or four years’.
The company representative told her she would have to travel to the bus depot in Hilsea to be interviewed for a permit – but ironically because Kathryn is unable to drive, travelling by bus would be the most cost-effective way of going there.
She said: ‘I said to him “are you trying to make it difficult for disabled people?”. It really makes it seem like we are being discriminated against. It is maddening.
Kathryn, who moved to Portsmouth from Alabama, USA, five years ago added because of the taxi costs, she would be unlikely to be able to pay to visit her husband at the hospital at all this week.
A First Bus spokesman said: ‘The management team at First Solent have spoken directly with the customer to fully establish the facts and resolve the issue. We were concerned to learn about this incident because all our drivers receive disability awareness training for this type of situation.
‘We’ve launched a full investigation and the necessary steps will be taken following its conclusion.
‘Electric wheelchairs are carried on buses without any type of assessment or permit.
‘However, only users of class 2 mobility scooters who have been assessed and given a permit to travel can board buses as part of a code of practice agreed in 2011 between the bus industry and the Department for Transport.
‘The code also states that the larger class 3 scooters will not be carried by any bus operator.’
The company later added that its general manager had been in touch with Kathryn.