A blind couple in Seattle, Washington, were reportedly kicked off of a Metro Transit bus after being told by the driver that the disabled section was full.
Cindy Bennett and Mike Mello tried to board a bus on Dec 28 that was headed for downtown Seattle, when they were suddenly ordered to get off because no disabled-accessible seats were available.
“He kept saying the ADA section is full,” Bennett told KIRO 7. “He was yelling at us. It was in public. It was really demeaning.” Bennett and Mello both said the driver’s behavior made them feel unwelcome.
“Were we really in 2014 told to get off a bus? Did that just happen to us? That's ridiculous,” Mello said.
Marci Carpenter, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington, filed a complaint to Metro Transit on behalf of the couple. “It's very hurtful because it could have been me. It could have been anyone,” Carpenter said. “Something that's supposed to be an offer of an accommodation becomes something the driver thinks is mandatory."
The American Disabilities Act states that seats deemed ADA accessible are offered only as an option and are not mandatory.
“Just because we are eligible to sit [in] that section we have the choice not to do that. And we also have the choice to just be anywhere we want,” Mello said. “And this guy's attitude was so rude and so hurtful I didn't know how to respond to him I was in shock.”
A Metro Transit spokesman responded to the incident, acknowledging that disabled passengers are not required to sit in ADA accessible seats.
“We’re sorry for what these riders went through and the poor customer service they received,” spokesman Jeff Switzer said in a statement. “We’re taking steps to prevent it from happening again and we’ll be reminding all 2,500+ operators of the proper procedures for helping customers with disabilities.”
Switzer said “appropriate action” would be taken in regard to the bus driver.
“Every day our operators help riders get where they want to go, and we take great care to help riders with disabilities. What happened is unacceptable and we apologize.”