James Cawley pictured in front of a Bus Éireann vehicle this weekend.
Local disability advocate, James Cawley, has hit out at Bus Éireann after failure to provide a place on a bus for him resulted in extra costs of €200 and an additional four hours on his two hour journey home from Ballina on Monday afternoon.
Wheelchair user, Mr Cawley provided 50 hours notice online ahead of his journey. However, he said, the service was not provided for him, forcing him to find an alternative way home at extra an cost.
In a live Facebook video on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Cawley revealed that Bus Éireann were refusing to accept liabilty on the grounds that he should have called the customer care number on their website.
“Bus Éireann don't want to accept liability. They think I'm wrong, but I'm not wrong. I'm the customer. The customer is always right,” he said in his live video.
Mr Cawley also stated that he is waiting to hear from Minister for Transport Shane Ross TD, who he said should try to change Bus Éireann's policy to provide more accessible travel options to people with disabilities.
When contacted by the Leader on Tuesday morning, Bus Éireann emphasised that wheelchair bookings should be made by phone.
“This notice was not provided to us via the customer care helpline in this case, so therefore the booking could not be processed.
“These calls allow us to ensure a wheelchair place is available, and to prepare our coaches for a wheelchair user, so the chair can be secured safely into place.
“The operation of the wheelchair lift also needs to be checked. We require 24 hour notice of travel for this, on accessible inter-city routes.”
In an open letter to Bus Éireann and Minister Ross on Monday afternoon, Mr Cawley expressed his frustration at the service.
“Disability is a societal issue not an individual one and we need to provide inclusive services for all in Ireland,” he said.
“We need our disabilities and rights to be recognised, to be treated with respect and dignity and feel included even if it's just a bus!” Speaking to the Leader yesterday morning, he said that people with disabilities should be able to travel without having to plan so far ahead.
“A couple of years ago, one of my friends died,” he said. “My sister had to lift me off a bus so I could go to my friend's removal. “My main goal is that this time next year I don't have to take a six hour journey instead of two hours.”