The Americans with Disabilities Act was written to protect the rights of Persons Living with Disability (PLWD) in the face of discrimination and exclusion. It is there in part so that people like me aren’t treated unfairly because of physical limitations.
On April 18, 2015, I boarded a bus driven by employee #1523. Within a block she stopped the bus and asked the lady next to me to collapse her stroller, then asked me to fold my walker. As it was a reasonable request, the mother collapsed her stroller. I was in a bit of pain and having hand tremors, so I was a bit taken aback by her request. So I refused. The driver began insisting, to which I replied that it was against the law per the Americans With Disabilities Act to require me to do something I was physically incapable of, but added that if she was willing to come back and fold it for me I would have no problem with that.
After a brief exchange in which people around me also started chiming in that I was correct in my assertion that what she was asking was against the law, the driver got on the phone with the Port Authority police to have me removed from the bus. The police told the driver (I could hear what they were saying over the very loud telephone) they wouldn’t do anything and to let me ride. Understandably annoyed, the driver started up her route again, and I perhaps rashly thanked her for not breaking the law. She gave me a bit of flack for that…
Things got heated when I asked her for her name and, upon her refusal, for her employee ID number so I could speak to the Port Authority about her conduct. From then on she started sniping at every single thing she could. When someone had to maneuver a little between my walker and the feet of the person across from me which were sprawled out across the floor, she started berating me for creating a blockage despite the fact that it was only partly my fault and that no one was complaining about having to move around me. I pointed out that people’s feet were sticking out further than my walker, and that there were a great many things that cause blockages in the aisle such as feet and backpacks. The driver said “So you’re saying I shouldn’t allow backpacks on my bus? You’re being ridiculous!” At this point I finally had the sense to take out my phone as I told her than no, that wasn’t what I was saying at all.
The final 3 minutes of my bus ride are contained in the following video:
For those who don’t feel like listening, basically it’s the driver telling me I’m being ridiculous and then calling Port Authority police *again* to try to get me kicked off the bus, a crotchety old lady whose offending feet were the source of said earlier blockage complaining that I was making everybody late, and me telling the driver as I got off the bus that I would see her in court.
After exiting the bus I immediately called Port Authority and filed a report on the driver, then called Port Authority police to press charges. Turns out ADA regulations aren’t enforceable by the police, but the awesome officer told me that I was well within my rights to sue the Port Authority both for suffering and to require them to educate their drivers on how to appropriately handle a situation when a PWLD has a physical limitation that prevents them from following bus guidelines.
I figured that in the time it would take me to write this my lawyer would call me back. Ahh well. I feel better having gotten everything off my chest, in any case.
If anyone has any advice or similar experiences you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you. If you don’t want to post it publicly on my blog, you can always email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.