Woman with epilepsy ordered off bus in row over disability card
A 19-year-old woman with epilepsy says she was ordered off a bus in Bath after the driver told her that a disability card entitling her to free travel was a "p*ss take".
Jess McGee, a former pupil at Beechen Cliff School's sixth form, was catching a bus from her home in Bear Flat to her job at Morrisons supermarket, in London Road, when the incident occurred.
She boarded a Number 13 service and, as she has done every day for more than a year, tried to swipe her Diamond travel card, which was issued by Bath and North East Somerset Council because her condition means she cannot drive.
However, she says the driver asked to take a closer look at the card and demanded to know what disability she had.
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When she explained about her epilepsy, he told her it was a "p*ss take" and said that if she did not have the money for the fare then she had to get off his bus.
Miss McGee, who did not have any money on her, was eventually rescued by a concerned fellow passenger who confronted the driver and then agreed to give her the cost of the fare.
"I felt very shocked and embarrassed," she said. "I was so shocked at the time that I didn't feel I could put up an argument.
"People I have spoken to since have said all the things I should've said to him, but in that situation, at the time I just couldn't."
She added: "I was so grateful to the woman who stepped in. I don't actually know her name, but I just told her she was really kind."
Miss McGee, whose father Brian is head of sixth form at Beechen Cliff and mother Penny works at the same school as head of special needs, was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 14.
Since then she has been taking medication to keep her fits under control, but had to drop out of a business management course at Kingston University, in London, after just a year because of her condition.
Her parents, who have two other children aged 18 and 22, said they had been left stunned by the way she had been treated.
Mrs McGee said: "I was just really outraged. She is totally reliant on public transport because she hasn't got the option to drive and she is somebody who is very independent.
"She has got a lot of barriers that have stopped her from doing things, but she is trying to live life to the full.
"It just made me angry that anybody could treat anybody like that. It was just absolutely none of his business (what her disability was), it was clearly a proper card which had issued by B&NES."
A spokesman from operator First said it was investigating the incident.
He added that all drivers were trained to accept the Diamond card and there was no reason why they should question it or pass comment on why a passenger had one.
"We take all customer feedback very seriously and strive to deliver the best possible service for all our customers," he said.
"As part of our training programme we train all of our drivers in disability awareness and expect all our staff to recognise and respond to the range of different needs that our customers may have. This includes hidden disabilities such as epilepsy."
Jess’s experience came as little surprise to the charity Epilepsy Action.
Spokeswoman Louise Cousins said: “We have heard a number of reports where people with epilepsy have been discriminated against when accessing local transport. We will now be writing to the bus company in question to highlight this issue.”
She added: “Epilepsy is a recognised disability and people with the condition are protected under the Equality Act 2010.
“If a person with epilepsy is not eligible to hold a driving licence because of their condition, they are entitled to free bus travel at certain times of day. It is not the duty of a bus driver to assess a person’s suitability for a disabled bus pass. A passenger with a valid pass should not be refused free travel by a bus driver.
“Epilepsy is often misunderstood and you wouldn’t know someone has the condition just by looking at them. However, epilepsy is a serious neurological condition that can have a huge impact on people’s lives.”