A vision-impaired couple in Seattle said they were told to get off a metro-area transit bus Sunday afternoon because no ADA-accessible seats were available.
Cindy Bennett and Mike Mello told Seattle TV station KIRO about their experience on a King County Metro bus Sunday afternoon.
"He kept saying the ADA section is full. You're going to have to get off the bus behind me," said Bennett, who was with her partner Mello trying to catch the 11 bus downtown. "He was yelling at us. It was in public. It was really demeaning."
The couple said they felt uncomfortable and exited the bus.
"Were we really in 2014 told to get off a bus? Did that just happen to us? That's ridiculous," said Mello.
Marci Carpenter is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington, and she filed a complaint over the incident.
"It's very hurtful because it could have been me. It could have been anyone," Carpenter added, "Something that's supposed to be an offer of an accommodation becomes something the driver thinks is mandatory."
Though the American Disabilities Act says that people with disabilities should be offered priority seating on buses, it's not required they sit only in those seats.
"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. And this guy's attitude was so rude and so hurtful I didn't know how to respond to him. I was in shock," said Mello.
Metro Transit spokesperson Jeff Switzer e-mailed a statement in response to the incident:
"We’re sorry for what these riders went through and the poor customer service they received. 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. Blind passengers are not required to use the ADA priority seating area. We’ve identified the operator and his chief will be working with him on this issue and will take appropriate action. 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."
Metro Transit said that the driver's supervisor will decide if he will face any disciplinary action.