Paralympic athlete 'humiliated' as he drags himself onto bus
Published 21/12/2011 | 05:00
BUS Eireann discriminated against a paralympic athlete after he claimed he was humiliated and degraded by having to drag himself up the steps of the bus on his hands.
Karol Doherty (32), from Carndonagh, Co Donegal, last night urged other people to speak up if they are having difficulties accessing public services.
Mr Doherty, who was left wheelchair bound after a car crash in 2004, said all buses purchased since 2008 were wheelchair-accessible yet drivers were informing him they were not trained to operate the lifts.
The athlete took a case to the Equality Tribunal in 2010 after experiencing difficulties over a four-year period while travelling the Derry to Dublin route to access sports camps and nutritionists in his bid to row for Ireland at the 2012 Paralympics.
"Every time I got on the bus it was so embarrassing. You had to climb up the stairs and your hands were on places where people's feet had been, then if it was a wet day your clothes got wet.
"It was degrading," he told the Irish Independent.
"Why drag yourself on when there is a ramp on the bus?"
The equality officer found Bus Eireann had discriminated against Mr Doherty and had failed to provide him with reasonable accommodation. The bus firm was ordered to pay him €1,000 for distress caused.
It found the bus company did not consult with Mr Doherty about his requirements at any stage.
Michael Doyle, a spokesman for the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA), said it was "disappointing" that someone had to bring a case to fulfil their right to access public transport.
Mr Doherty told the tribunal the Ulsterbus service Translink, which jointly operates the route, provided him with a wheelchair-accessible bus any time he requested at 24 hours' notice.
Bus Eireann told the tribunal it believed it had met the requirements of the Equal Status Acts as it considered it reasonable for a driver to help the man get on and off the bus.
A Bus Eireann spokesman last night said the route from Derry to Dublin has been made "accessible end-to-end" and all allocated drivers would be trained to use the lifts.