The family and caregivers of a disabled man are outraged with TransLink, after he was kicked off a Surrey bus by a driver who said there was no room for him and his hockey gear.
Paul Scholefield, who has cerebral palsy, says the incident happened on Oct. 18. Scholefield had just finished playing floor hockey at the nearby recreation centre – a game he looks forward to every week.
“I’ve always played goalie so, when I have to, I have to take my goalie bag on the bus,” Scholefield said.
He boarded the 341 Newton Exchange bus from Guildford Town Centre just after 3:00 p.m. that afternoon when he says the driver said something no other driver has told him before.
“The driver had told me that the bag was too big and if a stroller came on then I’d have to get off,” Scholefield said.
It was a shocking statement for the 24-year-old man to hear, given he was sitting in the priority seating area, seats on the bus designated for disabled passengers just like him.
Still, just a few stops later, a passenger with a stroller needed to get on.
“He turned around and said that I needed to get off and I had asked him if I could move toward the back more and he said no,” Scholefield says. “I was just in tears when I got off the bus.”
Scared and disoriented, he called his life skills worker for help.
Walt Giesbrecht says Scholefield was only a short distance from where he boarded the bus, but was panicking. While he’s capable of taking the bus on his own, he learned the route after months of practice. Anything that disrupted his routine made for a challenging situation.
Giesbrecht and others are struggling to understand how this happened.
“Paul had every right to be on that bus, in that area of the bus which is for people with handicaps,” Giesbrecht said.
TransLink said it’s not their policy for disabled passengers to get off the bus in order to make way for others. An investigation into the incident has been launched.
“We think that we’ve identified the operator,” TransLink spokespersn Jennifer Moreland said. “We are really hoping to sit down with Mr. Scholefield and his family to confirm a few details so that we can then go and speak to the operator.”
In the meantime, Scholefield worries this could happen to him again.
“Incidents like this shouldn’t happen to people with disabilities, especially when the only way they get around is by bus and SkyTrain.”