• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 4:34pm
NewsHong Kong

Disabled woman angry over mistreatment by KMB driver

Driver 'under observation' after 26-year-old suffering from limited mobility is not allowed to leave bus using disabled-access platform

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 September, 2014, 4:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 September, 2014, 8:19am

A Kowloon Motor Bus driver is being given customer-service training and will be put under observation after a disabled woman complained to the Equal Opportunities Commission about her mistreatment.

Julie Aswani, 26, who has limited mobility of her arms, hands and legs, says the driver refused to lower the disabled-access platform to the bus to help her alight and laughed in her face when she said she could not use the rear exit.

"The bus driver's conduct is in blatant breach of the disability discrimination ordinance," Aswani, who was born with the rare condition athrogyroposis multiplex, said.

KMB said the August 18 incident was a "misunderstanding", but said it had arranged for the driver to attend training on how to serve passengers in need.

"The bus [driver] concerned will also be subject to close monitoring by plain-clothes staff, who will observe his performance on a random basis over the coming months."

Aswani, whose condition causes contraction of the joints and shortening of the muscles, said she had made two complaints to the company in 2011 after similar behaviour from other bus drivers.

She said she believed the company had failed to acknowledge the gravity of the situation.

Aswani, who is of Indian descent, does not use a wheelchair although she struggles to get on and off vehicles without wheelchair access.

She said the driver of the number 48 bus refused to let her leave the bus through the front doors for "safety reasons".

"He started arguing and said, 'If you don't get off then all the passengers need to wait for you,'" Aswani said. "He threatened to call the bus company and this led me to call the police. At the same time, I called my brother and my friend for help who happened to be nearby."

She said that her brother tried to reason with the driver. But she said that when he explained the nature of her condition and how the platform is lower at the front of the vehicle, the driver laughed. It was only after police arrived, about 40 minutes later, that Aswani left the bus.

The Equal Opportunities Commission is campaigning to make certain access requirements - like low-floor buses - a standard provision on public transport.

Senior officer Mariana Law said the commission had written to the Transport and Housing Bureau in 2011 on this issue and it was projected that all buses would have wheelchair access by 2016. But KMB's projected date is a year later.

Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said KMB needed to do more to mitigate against discrimination of the disabled.

"The company needs to provide responsible education to its employees; it has a duty to do so. They can't just say they are sorry," he said. "It is clear that this is not an isolated case. The bus company needs a better monitoring system."

He said that the Equal Opportunities Commission "cared more about the infrastructure than educating the public" and recommended the Transport Bureau also take responsibility for improving attitudes towards the disabled on public transport.

Aswani, who speaks conversational Cantonese, said that in 2011 she complained to KMB when another driver refused to assist her and told her: "People like you should be taking taxis."

She said he added: "You should go back to your country."

"I'm from Hong Kong. I have an ID and I pay taxes - I have every right to take public transport," Aswani said. "I feel so dependent on others, and I don't want to feel this way. I want to be able to travel on my own."



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This article is now closed to comments

The issue isn’t the KMB service level. It’s also not a lack of training provided to the bus driver. The issue is human decency.

It doesn’t matter how high a standard KMB sets for its staff. It doesn’t matter how much training is provided. If the person don’t have the heart to show some decency and be willing to go out of his way to help under no promise of reward, this issue will come up again and again and again…
Doesn't matter how much "training" KMB gives the driver. You can't change the nature of a person over a couple of hours of supervised training (and all too often it's the blind leading the blind situation). The driver simply reflects HK society in general...indifferent, racist and incapable of lifting a finger unless it benefits them personally. And I always love the generic reason of "misunderstanding" that HK companies/people like to use when they are accused of mistreatment or racism.
Coming from KMB, this is nothing new. Only difference is this case has been publicised. Attitude of some/most (!!) in the service industry equates to absolutely no service at all.
People in the service industry has a lot to learn before there is any decent service to be rendered.
Sad to say hkers are a pretty sad and racist bunch.
Good on her for bringing this issue into light.
I am proud of her as she had courage to take action against discrimination and unfairness which is going on daily in hk and the government (leung chun ying) is useless who is only concerned for mainland tourist. mainland tourist are worst people in the world who are impolite, rude and mannerless. last week on 28th august one of the mainland tourist was occupying two seats with his luggage in crowded bus from peak tram. he did not give the seat even on my request. the same day a mainland woman in tst on nathan road pushed me so badly to run for bus no. 2 & she stopped the bus in the middle of the road. such rubbish are mainland tourist.
To be honest though bus drivers are not treated that well by those who ride the bus. People take too long to get on, run towards busses and make them wait, don't move to the back of the bus. Some stand on the stairs. I never see anyone say hi or thank you to a bus driver. HK roads are also busy and tiring to drive. Salaries are not that high and they drive long hours.
To a great extent KMB drivers attitude reflects the way they are treated and the job they do. Decency needs to be improved on all sides. You cannot say that a bus driver who is daily treated like **** or at best invisible should be held to such a high level. Treat the drivers better and I think you will find they treat others better.
If you are commenting on normal passengers being rude and ungrateful then I could agree with you and feel some empathy for the KMB bus drivers BUT in this case there are concerns rising every now and then on how these drivers treat people with special needs/disability...even more when they do not see you as a local, human or of their origin. "Go back to your country" ??? If I was there when this happened.....it would be a loud scene and then the "Locals" will understand and hear us better and clearer.
Truth is there are hardly any decent human beings left on this planet!
Driver would have been more helpful if she were white or local Chinese. Sad to say, but true.
A couple of weeks ago I was getting off the bus 72 outside Chek Nai Ping village. After I pressed the bell, I waited at the middle doors to promptly get off. As I was stepping out, the driver suddenly closed the doors and one of them hit me, causing me to almost fall down.
When I complained to the driver, he blamed me for wearing dark clothes in the evening so he could not see me. Now I am an able-bodied adult, and I was right at the doors when they opened, so it would take 1-2 seconds for me to get off the bus. Moreover, when the bus stops and the door opens, there is a light that goes on at the door. So what if it was evening, and the passenger wore dark clothes (didn't know they had a dress code requirement anyway), it is the driver's duty to check that alighting passengers get off safely. And no matter what time of the day and what color the clothes, surely the doors should be left open for longer than 1 second for the passengers to alight! What if it had been an elderly person, or a mother with a small child? - Of course, there was no apology, the driver was just smirking at my complaint.
I actually don't believe that the bus driver said "go back to your country". I think this is Julie Aswani trying to make a point stretching the truth. I know allot of visible minorities and none have ever said they have been told to go back to their own country. However when you read articles in SCMP it seems to be a common sentence said. Just like maids who say they work 24 / 7 - very common sentence of complaint (someone told them it works so they say it).
Discrimination widely happens in HK but being in HK for a long time I can gauge when someone is stretching the truth. I also know that a bus driver may initially say no but will within minutes say yes because they are more worried about being late or receiving complaints than keeping up an argument.
Julie appears to be trying to make a point here (maybe she feels it is her right to make a fuss and exaggerate) but based on my experience in HK it does not add up.
Other may disagree but I am pretty sure I am right.



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