I am a Disability Support Worker and my client used to love visiting the Puffing Billy, so I often took him there. On 3/4/13, my client and I were on the 11:10 train at Belgrave at 10:40 in the middle enclosed carriage, waiting for departure.
At 11:05, the conductor opened the carriage door and then aggressively and rudely said, "I'm gonna have to get you to move your stuff and put your bag overhead because I need to fit more people on."
Now understand that we'd been there before everyone else, and we had done nothing wrong whatsoever, yet she ordered in an aggressive, disparaging manner.
While I was repacking my client's snack box into his bag, she came back in and ordered us aggressively and rudely again, stating, "I need you to move because I need to get two more people in."
Turning to my client, she forcibly yelled at him, "Move up."
Because my client is clearly disabled, he needs coactive assistance, so he didn't move up immediately when she said.
She repeated her order aggressively, to him, "Could you please move up?"
She then asked me curtly and sarcastically, clearly with racial prejudice, "Does he understand English??"
This racist, insensitive, bigoted comment was offensive, demeaning, devaluing and humiliating in front of the rest of the passengers. My client, who is non-verbal and vulnerable, was unable to reply to her disgraceful humiliating taunts.
My client understands English very well. She should have had the sensitivity to understand that many travellers are disabled, just like many of their volunteers are. How dare she humiliate him in front of the rest of the passengers? Don't disabled people have enough self-perception problems to deal with?
I replied, "He's disabled."
She continued trying to move him along the seat, but of course he wouldn't move. Visibly hurt by what she said, I softly spoke to him – as a fellow human being – and prompted him to do so.
The absence of respect and dignity in her manner was breathtaking. In fact, I have never witnessed such conduct toward my visibly disabled client. This incident ruined the trip for me but more so for my client who is a train buff. This costly event is always anticipated with delight by my client. At one point during the trip, he wept.
I lodged a complaint to PB's management, which was met with reassurances of an investigation. After a length period, I finally received a response, whereby management dismissed the complaint, and instead made underhanded, insulting statements regarding my client and his disability.
What's notable is that the staff person breached PB's own policies, yet when I pointed this out, they didn't even acknowledge my email.
My client and I have not visited since.