#AccessibleLeeds? not if FirstBus have anything to do with it!

I was brave yesterday, and attempted my first bus journey in the electric scooter.

I started from the bus stop on Woodhouse Lane, outside the Unipol office and the Fenton pub.

First bus that pulled up (a First Bus), the driver saw me at the bus stop, chose to stop early to let his passenger alight, then slammed the bus doors in my face and drove off without a backward glance.

Second bus that stopped (a First Bus), the driver opened the doors. I asked him to put the ramp down so that I could get on the bus. He said “you must be having a laugh if you think I’m getting the ramp out for you. Besides, I’m not insured to carry you on the bus. And I can’t help you”. Despite appealing to him about the Equality Act, about the company’s committment to accessibility, and about the responsibility he had to put the ramp down for me, he chose to close the doors in my face and drive off.

The third bus that stopped, (a First Bus), the (female) driver got out of her seat and put the ramp down, without me saying anything. I couldn’t drive up it unassisted, so she got back onto the bus and lowered the bus to make the angle of the ramp less steep. I then got on the bus independantly.

So, when you are thinking of getting rid of Mobility DLA for people with mobility impairments, have a think about the attitudes we face when we try to access public transport with the rest of the population.

Go on, I dare you.

Edit: 03/06/12

I made a phone call to First Bus and complain about this incident, and in the interests of transparency, here is the reply I received, please note the bold type has been emphasised by me:

Reply from FirstBus 31/05/2012

Dear OTonWheels

I refer to your telephone call concerning the problems you experienced with our driver on Service 1 on 28 May 2012 as he did not allow you to board with your scooter.

Please note that from 01 March all scooters will need to have a permit for a class 2 scooter and class 3 scooters are not permitted on board.  Therefore it is possible that the driver may have become confused with regards to your wheelchair due to the new code of conduct.  An electric wheelchair that conforms with the standard reference wheelchair in dimensions is no different to any other wheelchair and the driver is required to offer assistance with boarding.  We try to ensure, as both a courtesy, and as our legal obligations to ensure that wheelchair users are given suitable treatment and access to our services wherever possible.  Drivers are trained to pull up close to the kerb and to utilise the on bus ramp facility for the customer to use. This is mandatory for all staff.

As such, I can confirm that the driver concerned has been traced and identified and your complaint has been recorded on the driver’s file for the attention of the depot manager.  The manager will investigate the matter further, provide any appropriate training or take any necessary action.

I can assure you that the action taken is part of First’s goal to become the transport provider of choice.

Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused and thank you for bringing the situation to our attention.

Yours sincerely


Customer Services Agent

Best Regards

First Customer Services
West & North Yorkshire.

Edit: 06/06/12 I have received another letter from First Bus:

Dear OTonWheels,

I have looked at the ‘blog’ you have posted and appreciate the concerns
raised and the interest they pose. Towards the foot of this, I notice that
you have identified some materials on our website (and that of our sister
company in the Midlands) which may have already answered this for you.

However, to clarify –

Because of a number of challenges over the years, mobility scooters have,
on the whole, not been permitted to travel on buses locally. Indeed, the
carriage of mobility scooters has nationally been very limited and patchy
with a level of local interpretation and variation.

With this in mind, the issue has been keenly discussed between operators,
operator bodies (such as CPT) and the DfT for some time. Positively, a
standard system is now in operation supported by all major operators such
as First, Stagecoach and Arriva as well as many smaller operators whereby
mobility scooters can be carried subject to type (type 2 are fine, type 3
are not permitted). However, to ensure that this can happen, uses need to
have an assessment on board to check dimensions and movement and a permit
would then be issued.

I suspect that the confusion here therefore is the term registration and
it’s implications. What should have been said and made clearer is that
users of type 2 mobility scooters may register with us and this can
therefore permit a ‘test’ on board to ensure compliance following which a
small, personalised permit is issued to instruct drivers that the unit is
suitable for carriage.

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding, and apologise again for the
difficulties posed in your previous account.

Best Regards

First Customer Services
West & North Yorkshire.

 

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10 Comments

  1. Sorry to hear they treated you like. The managers should train the drivers better. I hope you get treated better in future.

    Reply
  2. lifeandothermisadventures

     /  June 2, 2012

    Absolutely ridiculous! You tell ’em! I hope you write a letter to the management and to the papers.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for your comments, James and lifeandothermisadventures, as you can see from the edit above, they have responded, so I hope this little win will improve the situation for future users of FirstBus. I will update the next time I use the bus, and keep going until we have equal access to public transport!

    Reply
    • Well done for speaking out Claire, I hope your future adventures prove more positive.

      Reply
  4. craig tate

     /  June 3, 2012

    i cant believe that u got traeted like that and u were in a scooter its tough for abled bodided guys to get the buses to turn up let alone have the stress of going thru what u had to go thru FIRST LEEDS BUS hang your head in shame tut tut and you have the effing cheek to put the fares up for people as well i found out the other day its £2.80 b4 half 9 flaming cheek your gonna price yourselfs out soon i wont be using buses if the fairs get steep again.

    Reply
  5. Incidentally, the guidance from Direct.gov does not list a requirement to register Class 2 scooters, only class 3 (roadworthy scooters) see http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/disabledpeople/healthandsupport/equipment/dg_179937 Please do comment if you are aware of the detail referred to in this letter of reply- I will, in turn, update with more information if I find it.

    Reply
  6. Hi Claire, I found this about buses ad coaches, but not effective right now unless it is a new bus. Somewhat unclear about ‘scooters’ though! All it says is ”Mobility Scooters
    You should contact your local operator to find out whether or not your scooter is transportable on their buses and coaches before you travel”. But some useful info regarding sizes and weight etc which maybe useful to you?
    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/MotoringAndTransport/PublicAndCommunityTransport/DG_068407

    Reply
  7. I found this official policy from First bus that seems to explain the “registration” of mobility scooters: http://www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/assets/pdfs/First_Scooter_Leaflet_Guide_SE-Midlands.pdf

    Reply
  8. A nice “print out at home” safe journey card to communicate additional needs to your driver http://www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/assets/pdfs/Safe_Journey_Card.pdf

    Reply
  9. More info on policy about travelling on a scooter on a First Bus http://www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/leeds/bus_access/low_floor_access/mobility_scooter.php

    Reply

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