Maggie and her classmate were unable to board the L Taraval yesterday because the driver refused to move the streetcar a few feet so that the wheelchair ramp would line up with the door to the coach. I just wrote this letter to the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni)
I need to bring a matter to your attention. On April 3, 2013 two classes from Mission High School took a field trip to the San Francisco Zoo. These were special education students, several of whom use wheelchairs. My daughter Maggie is one of the wheelchair users. The kids, teachers, aides and nurses boarded the J Church at Mission High and transferred to the L at the Church street station and then reversed the process coming home. This group uses Muni regularly and rarely has any issue. Unfortunately, yesterday was an exception.
Because of her medical conditions, my daughter had to return to school a bit earlier than the rest of the group to receive a needed medical procedure. She and another student (also in a wheelchair) left with two aides and a nurse shortly before noon.
The L Taraval was sitting empty at the terminus ready to be boarded. However, the car was pulled beyond the ramp for the wheelchairs. One of the aides talked to the driver and asked him to either back up a few feet so the kids could board in the front door or pull up a bit so they could board through the back door and make their way up to the seating area reserved for the disabled. To their amazement, the driver refused to do so.
Please understand, the coach was completely empty as that is the end/beginning of the line. The driver was waiting for several minutes to leave as is the custom at that particular place. There was no hurry, and there was no inconvenience to any other passengers. Still, he refused to move the coach so as to allow my daughter or her classmate to board the streetcar. This is inexcusable.
Because they could not get the two wheelchairs onto the streetcar, they had to wait for the next one. That driver too had to wait several minutes before he took off. (I presume that is for the schedule – there are always cars sitting there waiting.) The resulting unnecessary delay make my daughter late for her scheduled procedure and quite uncomfortable, something that could have been avoided if driver #1 had shown even the slightest courtesy or concern for the passengers.
Interestingly, by the time the second car arrived a third wheelchair user had arrived. This person was not connected with my daughters group. Driver #2 originally told him he would have to wait for the next car as there wasn’t room for three wheelchairs. His companion and the school personnel easily made all three chairs fit and everyone rode without incident.
It seems some sensitivity training is needed for driver #1 and training on the proper wheelchair capacity for all your drivers. Muni provides a crucial service for the disabled members of San Francisco who rely on public transportation. Generally Muni serves this community pretty well; but this incident shows there is more work to do.
I hope you can determine who Driver #1 was and let him know that his lack of courtesy and refusal to accommodate the needs of the disabled – when the accommodations have already been provided – could have had disastrous results for my daughter rather than simply the discomfort she had to endure. I hope too that he will be disciplined for what I can only presume was mean spirited violation of Muni’s policies.
The website says I can expect a response in 7 days. I can't WAIT to see what they have to say.
They really should start finding someone to abuse who has a nicer mother.