A B.C. man is speaking out about what he says is the mistreatment he received during a taxi ride on Friday night.
Joseph Resendes, who has cerebral palsy, is now wondering if his disability is the reason he was treated poorly.
Resendes, who takes taxis often as he cannot drive, ordered a ride from Bel-Air Taxi to travel from the Tri-Cities to Braid SkyTrain Station due to a soccer coaching commitment.
He said the driver asked him right away how he was paying and Resendes responded that he was paying by credit card.
Resendes said the driver then demanded cash.
“He insisted on cash and he said he would take me to the bank machine,” he said.
“I did get cash and I got back in the cab with cash.”
After this, Resendes said the cab driver became verbally aggressive.
“He said he would not move the car an inch further unless I paid full cash up front,” he added.
B.C. introduced a Taxi Bill of Rights in 2008. It states that passengers have the right to be picked up and transported to their stated destination by any available on-duty taxi driver.
It states passengers have the right to pay the posted rate by cash, accepted credit cards or voucher.
It also states that passengers have the right to a courteous driver who provides assistance if requested.
Resendes told Global News the driver refused to take him any further and left him outside the bank in the rain.
“I feel that we’ve been telling a lot of people that us, in terms of people with disabilities have come very far,” he said.
“The Burnaby School Board is actually a very inclusive place and a lot of people in the Burnaby School Board are very inclusive and just treat me as a fellow staff member, which a lot of people in the community do. But you feel that there’s a part of the community that just doesn’t get it done and a lot of people mix up cerebral palsy for (intoxication) but the muscle control loss is similar, but it’s wrong to assume anybody is intoxicated.”
Resendes said the cab driver did not accuse him of being intoxicated but it has happened to him many times in the past and thinks that perception may have contributed to this incident.
He did not make his soccer game and ended up calling his mom to pick him up. He did report the incident to the police.
“I just want people to know they have rights and nobody should be treated this way,” Resendes added.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said he was frustrated to hear of this experience.
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“Obviously, we as a society have moved a long way toward having more accommodations for persons with disabilities,” he said. “Myself, I have an episodic disability that is invisible most of the time, but when it appears you sort of you don’t want to be judged differently or treated differently than anyone else.
“This incident frustrates the hell out of me.”
Stewart said if anyone has a credit card then the taxi driver should be able to check that the passenger can pay for the ride and there should be no issues.
“I’m really saddened that that kind of thing can still go on, particularly from a company that’s based here in Coquitlam,” he added.
Resendes said he knows of others with cerebral palsy that have experienced similar situations through his work as an education assistant and as a member of the Canadian Paralympic soccer team.
“I think it happens more than it should,” he added.
Bel-Air Taxi is investigating what happened Friday night but the company has a very different version of the events indicating Resendes acted aggressively and seemed unwilling to pay more than $20 for the fare.
The company said it has spoken with the driver and the driver said the customer said he would pay cash. The driver then asked for a deposit for the fare, which the company said is his right to do. The company said Resendes only offered to pay $20 for the entire fare and became agitated and verbally abusive to the driver when he refused the $20.
But Resendes said he’s not going after Bel-Air Taxi but he would like to see more accountability for their drivers.
“I’m simply wanting to make people aware that this happens to people with disabilities,” he said.
Resendes added that he is going to take Uber more now where he can pay for the ride up front.