'London bus driver refused to take my disabled daughter'

  • Published
SistersImage source, Tameika Pieternella
Image caption,
Two-year-old D'Naiyah depends on her buggy to get around London

A woman says she was left feeling "ridiculed and belittled" by a bus driver who refused to let her young disabled daughter board.

Mother-of-five Tameika Pieternella often travels by bus in Abbey Wood, south-east London, with two-year-old D'Naiyah, who has brain damage.

She says the driver would not get out a ramp for her daughter's buggy-style wheelchair, while another simply drove off, leaving them at the bus stop.

Transport for London has apologised.

Louise Cheeseman, TfL's director of bus operations, said: "We are very sorry that Ms Pieternella and her daughter have experienced this.

"We would like to reassure her that making travel easier for Londoners with reduced mobility is one of our top priorities. We have one of the most accessible bus networks in the world and all bus routes are served by low-floor vehicles with an access ramp and dedicated space for wheelchair users.

"Bus drivers have received accessibility training and these incidents should not have happened."

'Better training needed'

Ms Pieternella says she had to explain her daughter's condition to one driver before he agreed to get out a ramp for them to board.

D'Naiyah is not able to walk or talk, is registered blind and needs her buggy to get around, said Ms Pieternella, who is offering to help TfL retrain bus drivers to better understand the difficulties of caring for disabled children.

"I'm willing to be a part of a retraining process where I could take my daughter in her chair so drivers can become familiar with different types of wheelchairs," she said.

"The drivers I've dealt with clearly only consider wheelchairs to be the ones with the big wheels at the side. [The experience] made me feel ridiculed and belittled."

Image source, Tameika Pieternella
Image caption,
D'Naiyah had a brain haemorrhage at birth which led to her having hydrocephalus - a build-up of fluid on the brain

On one occasion, she said, a driver refused to get out a ramp for the buggy as he believed "it was not needed".

"Instead of letting the ramp out, he shut the bus door and just left us there. I was so hurt because I don't understand why these drivers are so mean," Ms Pieternella said.

"I said to one driver: 'If I was a white mother with a white child would you still be treating us like this?' And that's when he finally let the ramp down."

Ms Pieternella said these experiences had upset her other daughter, who is nine.

"My daughter asks me: 'Why do they treat us this way, why don't they want to let my sister on the bus?'"

Image source, Tameika Pieternella
Image caption,
Tameika Pieternella is offering to help TfL retrain bus drivers to understand the complexities of caring for disabled children

Due to the difficulties she has experienced, Ms Pieternella says she now has serious anxiety attacks whenever she has to use the bus.

"I don't know what kind of driver I'm going to come in contact with," she said. "Don't get me wrong, some drivers are really nice but they should all be because they're dealing with the public.

"My daughter's disabilities do not give anyone the right to discriminate against her. It needs to stop."

TfL said it was raising the matter with bus operator, Arriva.

"We will invite Ms Pieternella to a meeting with Arriva where we will be ensuring everything is being done to prevent this from happening again," TfL said.

"We will also help Ms Pieternella access our Mobility Aid Recognition Scheme card, which helps to signal to bus drivers that the customer is using a mobility aid and the ramp should be lowered."

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