Blind couple file complaint after driver tells them to get off Metro bus

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SEATTLE — King County Metro has apologized after one of their drivers told two blind passengers that a bus was full and they had to get out.

Those passengers said they felt demeaned and discriminated during the ordeal, and they want all Metro drivers to get better training.

The incident happened near Pine and Broadway on Sunday afternoon in Capitol Hill.

The couple said the driver claimed the disabled section on the bus was full and they would have to find another bus to ride.

Metro said blind passengers are not required to ride in any one section on the bus.

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“We were totally just discriminated against and made to feel really uncomfortable and unwelcome on a bus,” said passenger Cindy Bennett.

“Blatant discrimination and it was just really uncomfortable,” said her partner, Mike Mello.

Bennett and Mello, both blind, were shocked when a bus driver told them they had to leave the bus because the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, seating section was full.

“We were so shocked, it was such an uncomfortable situation,” said Mello. “The word I’ve been using is demeaning because we were literally told we weren’t welcome on the bus.”

“Completely over-the-top behavior,” said Marci Carpenter, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington

Carpenter said discrimination should not be tolerated by any of Metro’s passengers.

“This driver should have a clear understanding that you never, ever speak to a passenger this way,” said Carpenter.

Metro apologized for Bennett and Mello’s experiences. A spokesperson said the driver provided poor customer service.

“Blind passengers are not required to use the ADA priority seating area,” Jeff Switzer wrote in a statement. “We’ve identified the operator and his chief will be working with him on this issue and will take appropriate action.”

Bennett and Mello both hope the same mistake isn’t repeated.

“It’s not OK for their drivers to treat passengers whether we’re blind, sighted, or have any other disability in this manner,” said Mello, “It’s just not acceptable.”

A Metro spokesperson called the incident unacceptable, adding they will be taking steps to prevent it from happening again by reminding all of their drivers about the proper procedures for helping disabled customers.

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  • blah

    Bennett, Mello, and Marci Carpenter need to get a grip. If the bus was full, then there was no more room and the next bus was probably close behind anyway and had lots more comfortable room. Even if the driver was mistaken and believed the blind need the disabled seats, how is this the crime of the century? People need to quit being so demanding of utter perfection in others. Sheesh!

  • Lynn Bruce

    First, to those who made the previous comments, read, read, read the entire article before you make your comments, please. The bus was NOT full. Repeat after me: the bus was not full. The little puny tiny area marked by Metro for ADA riders was FULL. The driver decided that these two blind people could not sit in any other seats on HIS bus. So he told them to get off because HE was the God in charge of HIS bus. Hate to break it to you, but handicapped people can sit in other sections of a bus. They do NOT have to sit in the ADA area. Gosh! What a novel idea…sitting in a section not labeled ADA!!!!! OHHHHH, AHHHH! Duh! Ya mean the bus had other seats for these bus riders to sit on? Duh? HUH? I thunked that there be nunded lefted on the busded.

    How is that for poor grammar, spelling, and English? Read the rest of my articulate intelligent prose and then be glad that you were not the two kept from going home when you were tired, ill, or simply wanted to be in your space.

    It is obvious that 2014 has gone back to 1955 and those areas may be set aside for convenience are now considered areas where YOU have to sit. What was wrong with that driver? Is there next going to be two seats designated for pregnant women? Two seats for overweight men? Two seats for overweight women? One seat for an obese kid under 5? One seat for an obese kid over 5 and under 7? I mean, just fill your buses with signs and tell your drivers that the customers who pay to ride cannot ride because the buses are not for people…just signs!

    This story is a disgrace. That driver deserves to be docked one day’s pay and to be told to go to a a facility for disabled people and help out for 4 hours. And you know what he will learn? The blind, the deaf, the mentally handicapped…ha! They are not the ones with the disabilities! The so-called normal people, like licenses bus drivers, are handicapped.

    • Matt

      Lynn–Take your own advice. Nowhere in the article does it say whether the bus was full or not. It does not positively state that the bus was NOT full, as you claim. One might guess that the rest of the bus was full, based on what occurred (but the article does not say this, so it would be just a guess). Get off your high horse.

  • Frank H

    The real problem is having a whole freaking section for cripples. If they can’t sit in a regular seat like everybody else, then too bad. Walk or hire a taxi. I’m tired of crap like this. I’m tired of going to a store and having to park ten miles out into the parking lot and then walk past dozens and dozens of empty handicapped parking spaces that nobody uses. Here I am working and paying taxes, taxes that pay for these cripples’ disability payments so they can spend my money buying twinkies. They spend the whole day thinking of new ways to whine and complain about people not letting them have their way all the time. A few years ago a group of local cripples brought a lawsuit saying everybody in my county should have to build wheelchair access ramps to our homes in case a cripple wants to knock on MY door.

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