'Can you get out of that thing?' - Wheelchair user told he needs to book seat 24 hours in advance by Bus Eireann driver
Bus Eireann are investigating an incident in which a wheelchair user was told by a driver that he needed to book his seat 24 hours in advance and was asked could he “get out of that thing”.
The young man attempted to board the double deck bus with two of his friends at Dunshaughlin, Co Meath recently.
The trio were travelling to Dublin on the 109 route when the young man asked for the wheelchair ramp to be lowered so he could board the bus.
He was told by the bus driver that there was “no room for him”, despite empty seats on the bus, and he needed to book his seat 24 hours in advance.
According to a witness, the driver then asked the young man: “Can you get out of that thing?”, referring to his wheelchair.
The young man said he couldn’t leave the wheelchair as he was dependent on it.
After a discussion and the realisation that the aisle between the seats was not wide enough for the wheelchair, the two female friends of the young man physically lifted him from the chair into one of the seats at the front of the bus.
The young man has not contacted Bus Eireann, but the travel group are investigating the complaint which was written on an online blog by a third party.
Blogger Vanessa Monaghan wrote: “None of us know what’s around the corner and if we were in a wheelchair, we, I, would like to be able to pop into town for the afternoon.
“Imagine having to constantly decide what you’re doing in 24 hours time.
“You can’t be late going and you then can’t be late for the return journey. You meet a friend, you can’t allow yourself to stay an extra few minutes for a chat. The one thing that’s taking away your freedom is the one thing that gives you freedom. Your wheelchair,” she continued.
“To the young gentleman wheelchair user, I’m sorry. I didn’t say anything to you as I didn’t want to embarrass you.
“I’m sorry you had to rely on your friends / sisters to lift you from your chair. You and your friends dealt with the situation with maturity and dignity. Bus Eireann, do something about your despicable rule.”
A spokesperson for Bus Eireann explained that there is a mix of single deck and double deck coaches allocated to the 109 route.
The double deck coaches require the removal of four seats to accommodate a wheelchair and advanced notice is required to remove the seats.
Wheelchair users can contact the travel office and book a ticket in advance to ensure this task is carried out in the garages before the trip and the bus is accessible for wheelchair users.
“This is not a task that can be carried out by the driver and so the seats are removed in the garage,” the spokesperson told Independent.ie
“Coaches travel at faster speeds than city buses, so the wheelchair must be secure.
“Each service has one wheelchair space, therefore a reservation system is in place, requiring an intended customer to book 24 hours in advance of his or her journey, by telephoning the local Bus Éireann travel centre,” she continued.
“In this way, these customers know if a wheelchair space is available and Bus Eireann can make the necessary arrangements to remove seats from the coach to accommodate the wheelchair user on the vehicle.
“This reservation system is a common practice across other EU countries,” she added.
Bus Eireann are 100pc accessible in their city services of Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway and Sligo which use low-floor vehicles, but do not have 100pc accessibility on their commuter, stage carriage, and inter-regional services.
Bus Eireann said they are working with the National Transport Authorities (NTA) and local authorities to improve the situation.
The NTA confirmed last week that funding will be provided for 40 wheelchair accessible stops on the Bus Eireann network this year.