Tuesday 11 December 2018

Teacher and wheelchair user claims Bus Eireann 'openly discriminated' against him

Told he could not use the bus service despite giving over the necessary 24 hours’ notice

James Cawley
James Cawley

Kyle Ewald

A young man travelling back to Longford this weekend said he was "openly discriminated" against by Bus Éireann for his disability after being told he could not use the bus service, despite giving over the necessary 24 hours’ notice.

James Cawley said he was notified on his journey to Ballina Co Mayo that there was a Bus Éireann service at 15:30 on Monday back to Longford, but disabled passengers must give 24 hours’ notice to ensure the bus is accessible.

“The whole week I was in Mayo my family kept asking me about how I was going to get home and I just didn’t even want to think of the stress of it and then even when I plan ahead and gave over the necessary 24 hours’ notice, I am openly discriminated against,” said Mr Cawley.

Mr Cawley said he gave Bus Éireann 50 hours’ notice of his travel plans, but was told he should have booked by last Friday because “due to operational constraints booking for weekend and Monday travel must be made no later than 3pm Friday.”

“Wheelchair accessible bookings are made via a helpline number and this is clearly stated on Bus Éireann’s website. This notice was not provided to us via the customer care helpline in this case, so therefore the booking could not be processed,” said a Bus Éireann spokesperson in a statement to Independent.ie.

Mr Cawley said he was told there was no bus for that particular route in operation that day, contrary to the timetable which still listed the route.

The Bus Éireann spokesperson said: “Route 22 Dublin to Ballina is also not a designated accessible route, as specific bus stop infrastructure is required for this too.”

The statement continued: “Phone bookings allow us to ensure a wheelchair place is available, and to prepare our coaches for a wheelchair user - via the removal of passenger seats - so the chair can be secured safely into place where vehicles are travelling up to 100kph.

“The operation of the wheelchair lift also needs to be checked. We require 24 hour notice of travel for this, on accessible inter-city routes.”

“It’s not the first time something like this has happened, and it’s frustrating,” Mr Cawley told Independent.ie.      

“My sister finally said to me ‘why don’t we hold [Bus Éireann] responsible? Why is it your job to have to plan and stress about something that should be so simple?’ And she’s right, because it shouldn’t be this difficult to travel.”

The Maynooth teacher said the two hour journey from Ballina to Longford stretched to six hours cost him an additional €200 on taxi services alone. Rather than using the bus, Mr Cawley travelled from Ballina to Manulla Junction, then to Athlone via train and taxi to Longford.

Mr Cawley said this is not the first time he has faced issues with the service, including an incident where he was travelling back from his brother’s home in Athlone and had to be lifted off the bus by his pregnant sister because the necessary disability services were unavailable. He once again had to be lifted off the bus by his sister when travelling to attend a funeral. 

“These problems need to be dealt with, there are loads of people out there who are dealing with it more than me, but it’s frustrating. The Minister for Transport and Transport Authority Board need to enact policy. We are always writing up policy, but then it’s not enacted,” said Mr Cawley.

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