A Donegal hopeful for the 2012 Paralympics says he is happy with the outcome of an Equality Tribunal hearing against Bus Eireann taken after he was forced to climb onto a bus on his hands, despite a lift being available.
32-year-old Karol Doherty from Carndonagh, who has been a wheelchair user since a car crash in 2004, insists the matter should never have had to go as far as Tribunal stage to get the correct service in place.
He brought the complaint after he was continually forced to climb the bus steps on his hands while a special lift was available. He said he was told the drivers had not been trained to use them.
He said the issue had been ongoing for four years and despite repeatedly raising the matter with Bus Eireann, nothing was done to help his travel.
The Tribunal found the bus operator had discriminated against Mr Doherty and had failed to provide him with reasonable accommodation.
Karol is an accomplished athlete who now has his sights set on a spot on the Irish Paralympic rowing team for London in 2012.
As part of his athletics programme he regularly travels between Donegal and Dublin, via Derry, for training camps.
His complaint to the Tribunal said that a similar service operated by Ulster Bus functioned perfectly if he gave them 24 hours notice of his intended travel.
Karol explains: “I’m always up and down to Dublin for sport training and it meant that every time I went to get on the bus I had to climb on and it was
such an inconvenience and my hand were in places where people feet had just been. I had been on to Bus Eireann so many times and they just weren’t doing anything about it. It’s too bad they had to go to the Tribunal before they actually did anything about it.”
He added: “The thing was, whenever I get the Ulster Bus service it wouldn’t be a problem, I would just phoned up before hand as they were using the same buses. The two were using the same European design, but Bus Eireann just weren’t allowing me to use it (the lift), that was the discrimination, How come Ulster Bus could provide the service and Bus Eireann couldn’t?”
The bus company says that the service is now in place and all the drivers on the route had been trained to use the lift. They also state that some intermediary stops maybe inaccessible and this is the responsibility of the relevant local authorities.
They were ordered to pay Mr. Doherty €1,000 for the distress caused.
Karol now continuing his Olympic dream and the national trials take place next April.