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Foundation Blasts ‘Outrageous’ Bus Incident

Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind
Media Release
3 November 2005

Foundation of Blind Blasts ‘Outrageous’ Wellington Bus Incident

“This kind of thing happens constantly somewhere in New Zealand – not an assault, but a member of the Foundation being denied access to a bus or taxi simply because the driver did not believe they were blind or vision-impaired; they did not ‘look like a typical’ blind person because they did not have a guide dog or white cane. This is enormously frustrating for our members. It’s really outrageous that this happened at all, and especially right after Blind Week and after the Human Rights Commission released their report about discrimination in public transport. This has got to stop,” says Paula Daye, CEO, Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind.

The Foundation’s Technology, Employment and Awareness division provides blindness awareness training to private and public organisations, including leading mass transit providers.

Unfortunately, Stagecoach, who are at the centre of the Monday night incident, have refused multiple approaches from the Foundation over several years to provide blindness awareness training to their drivers.

“We’ve provided blindness awareness training to Connex’s Auckland staff and several taxi companies. Foundation members tell us that the staff of these transport providers now better understand their needs and are more helpful and courteous. On the other hand, we continue to receive a constant barrage of complaints by members about how they were treated by some transport providers, including Stagecoach,” says Chris Orr, Community Education and Awareness manager.

This incident occurred Monday after 9pm in Wellington. According to the 14-year-old Foundation member’s mother, and police, the teenager got on a Stagecoach bus at Mercer Street in Island Bay, along with his older brother and a young woman. The driver challenged the teen, saying he did not believe he was the real holder of the bus pass – issued by Stagecoach to Foundation members -- and told him to get off the bus. The teen’s mother said that he declined, insisting that it was his pass.

An incident then occurred with another passenger. Police are investigating this as a “serious assault, not because of injuries but because of the circumstances.”

The teen has twice previously had his bus pass seized by Stagecoach drivers who did not believe he was a Foundation member. He is vision-impaired and a member of the Foundation but does not use a white cane or guide dog.

The teen’s mother advises that her son has no vision in one eye, and only peripheral vision in the other. He is able to distinguish shape but not definition, and he is able to read large print.

Chris Orr says the Foundation has urged providers who issue travel passes to Foundation members to use photo IDs, which would stop or reduce incidents. Some do this now.

The mother of the Foundation member has asked that media inquiries be directed to the RNZFB.


ENDS

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