Being invisibly disabled is sometimes frustrating. AC Transit made it worse.

Being invisibly disabled is sometimes frustrating. AC Transit made it worse.

I can’t even begin to understand why this happened. Rather than type it all again, I’ll just post my complaint for an ADA violation I filed with AC Transit today. Since becoming disabled in a way that isn’t obvious when looking at me but does mean I require some accommodations, my eyes have been opened. Disabled people are treated terribly. Transit drivers are among the worst offenders.

On Saturday, May 15th, I boarded AC Transit Route F at approximately 10:25 AM from the Transbay terminal heading eastbound. It was bus number 6143 with operator number 43810.

My intended destination was downtown Berkeley BART. As we arrived, I realized too late where we were and pulled the stop cord too late. The driver motioned to me (I was wearing headphones) asking, I assumed, if I wanted to stop there. I took off my headphones and said that I hadn’t been paying attention and I was sorry. He told me I needed to pull the cord in time, and I responded by saying I had not been paying attention and was sorry. He replied it was good, and I thought it was done. We arrived at the next stop shortly later at approximately 11:02 AM.

The next stop had construction and the bus was unable to stop at the curb. I am disabled in such a way that it is uncomfortable, and sometimes difficult and dangerous, for me to exit the rear door when there is no curb to step onto. I approached the front and asked the driver to please lower the front so I could get out. He told me to go out the back door. I stated I was disabled and needed him to please lower the door and open it.

His response was unbelievable. “Oher people use the back door,” he stated. That is a completely unacceptable thing to say to a disabled person.

I believe his statement to be true. Other people do use the back door. Maybe even other disabled people do. With the disabilities I have, I needed to use the front door. Instead of pressing a button and letting me exit and go on with my way, your driver decided to basically call me a liar and not offer me an accommodation that any reasonable and kind (as well as law-abiding) driver would have offered me.

I did what no disabled person should EVER have to do. I pulled up my jeans over my knees. I showed him my disability because he seemed not to believe me. I showed him this, which you can see below, in the hopes that he would do the right thing and open the door.

I was agitated and asked him in a louder tone to please open the front door as I showed him my legs. At this point, I would have expected that any reasonable, caring human being would have opened the front door for me. Not your driver. He instead chose to antagonize me. He told me to stop taking it out on him because I missed my stop. Those are the words of a vindictive person. After being asked the third time for a standard accommodation for a disabled person entering the bus, he continued to antagonize me. That is the action of a cruel and uncompassionate human being.

I did raise my voice again after this – though certainly not at full volume. I did so because I was being detained unnecessarily and against my will while the driver bullied me. I had done nothing at all to antagonize him. I didn’t understand why he was singling me out and treating me with such disregard for my humanity. He could see my knees are battered yet he let me stand on them while he tried to accomplish whatever it was that he was aiming for.

I asked him several times again to please open the door. He continually refused. He told me he would open it when I stopped being loud and rude. He again made it about me. His behavior to me was beyond discourteous and now chooses to keep me standing longer because I treated him rudely? I was and am incredulous. His behavior was absolutely reprehensible, and I do not understand why he believed my manners were the problem.

At one point, I mentioned that I was simply asking for something provided for by the ADA. Again, amazement. Your driver scoffed and told me he hadn’t denied me an accommodation.

After finally opening the door and allowing me to leave, he had to get one more punch in and shouted that, “it’s about courtesy, man,” after I had left the bus. I was so furious that I did now say in a very loud voice that what it should have been about is taking care of people with disabilities, and I called him the name at the time that I felt was most appropriate, for which I am sorry. I called him an asshole and frankly that’s exactly what he was.

Your driver is the problem, not me because I asked politely him to please open the front door. He escalated the situation at every opportunity instead of granting me a customary and simple accommodation.

The actions of this person are not those of a sane, rational person. He appears incapable of exhibiting basic human respect and compassion to your customers with disabilities. He singled me out and antagonized me for no reason whatsoever, except that I am disabled and asked for an accommodation.

I highly encourage you to review the video which I believe will corroborate my entire story.

I feel anxiety when I board and depart from public transit. The behavior and attitude this driver displayed is too common. I regularly have to deal with other riders who don’t believe I’m disabled and won’t give up a seat, a driver who won’t help me pull a seat down when it’s stuck, or one that simply won’t open a door. Your driver is part of that problem.

Thank you for your time in hearing and following up on my complaint and concern.

Sincerely,

Kyle Smith

PS: Incidentally, on the ride home, a different driver refused to open the front door for me to board. He lowered the bus when I indicated it was too high but pointed me to the very high back door. It doesn’t kneel much at all when the front is lowered. I had to use the railings to pull myself into the bus. This problem is systemic in AC transit. I’m moving to Berkeley next month and, along with all disabled people, deserve much better.

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