"I routinely go through moments where bus drivers resist the idea of letting me on the bus, or just pass me up, or act a little rude or horrible," the writer, blogger, poet, and literary translator Liz Henry explains. "In those cases, I have sometimes filed a complaint, and sometimes not, and let it go at that...Life isn’t perfect, neither are people, and I don’t expect my encounters with everyone to be ideal."
But attempting to get to her job at Mozilla as usual in her wheelchair last month, Henry wrote yesterday on her blog that one encounter with a Muni driver was "over the top."
First, Henry spoke up on Twitter about her experience, recording raw and honest thoughts like the following:
I don't like that now i am pitted against someone and my option is to potentially harm their livelihood. I will report it tho.— Liz Henry (@lizhenry) June 2, 2015
I've been a wheelchair user for twenty years. I endure incredible physical pain. I am a badass— Liz Henry (@lizhenry) June 2, 2015
"My goal in explaining this at length, and in filing a bus complaint in the first place, is to improve bus and public transit service for disabled people in the SF Bay Area," writes Henry in her post. She was also able to record the the video and audio from the bus’s built in surveillance system, to which she gained access through a Freedom of Information Act request. Those are below.
As you can sort of hear, the driver repeatedly tries to tell the woman to wait for the next bus, says there are "inspectors watching" and the bus is too crowded, and refers to her scooter as a "stroller." He also says that all disabled people are just complainers, and "that's how y'all live."
"My expectations from this complaint are that SFMTA will take the complaint seriously," writes Henry, whose hearing is tomorrow. "I hope they will appropriately train the driver to interact with wheelchair users and how to let them onto the bus in a normal and efficient way. I believe they should also look at their training process since it is not uncommon for me that drivers refuse to let me on the bus, or simply pass me up without stopping. Passing me and other wheelchair users up is particularly a problem on the MUNI train level boarding stops above ground. Drivers are also often hostile and rude.... The drivers who are nice, or simply businesslike, I very much appreciate."
Henry was also disheartened that no one on the bus came to her assistance during the ordeal. Perhaps her outspokenness can serve to make other riders step in next time.