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Humanity has disappeared from buses

13 April 2013 / 15:04:25  GRReporter
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Having spent some time in an incubator, Maria was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She grew up in a wheelchair which has already become part of her life – she cannot move without her wheelchair. Today, she is 18 and her daily life is completely dependent on it.

Maria lives like everyone else in her situation. She goes to school in her wheelchair, of course. Her mother, Eleni Stamou, accompanies her to school every day, always by city bus. On Friday, however, Maria felt embarrassed at the sight of the bus that arrived at the bus stop. Would they let her get on the bus and go to school? Or would theyl send her away, like the driver did in front of her startled mother and the girl who got a shock and cried for hours.

On Friday morning, as usual, the two of them were waiting at the Mesogeion bus stop near their home. The bus arrived and stopped, but they could not get on it. The door opened just in front of a rubbish bin and the wheelchair could not pass. "I asked the driver to move a little bit further, so that we could get on the bus," said Mrs Stamou, without expecting what followed. The driver told her that "this is the second time you are doing something like this, and, if you do it again, I will not let you get on the bus again."

Mrs Stamou continued, "as if that was not enough, there was more to come. The driver and one of the passengers accused me of deliberately hiding behind the pillar so that he could not see me. As if I had a reason to do something like that." After her daughter arrived at school, the girl's mother contacted Athens Urban Transport Organisation in order to alert it about the incident. They, however, informed her that the case would be checked only after submission of a written accusation, so that the driver could be disciplined if the accusation was proved.

"I do not know if anything will happen. I did not report the incident because of my personal feelings towards the individual, but because such behaviour is becoming more common," said Mrs Stamou for To Vima newspaper. Her own experience has proved that people with disabilities in Greece have always had problems. But in recent years, perhaps as a consequence of the crisis, people have become ruder and nobody bothers about others. Mrs Stamou has travelled in Europe as part of her daughter’s treatment. "I have always been impressed by the great number of people in wheelchairs in the streets of these cities; even bed-ridden people go out in the park. At first glance you think that there has been a disaster or a war, but then you realise what the difference is - those people move freely there. Here, they are imprisoned in their homes "...

The story of Mrs Stamou became known soon after a signal to the Ombudsman about the behaviour of a public transport driver in Thessaloniki. In that case, however, the "problem" was the skin colour of passengers. On Wednesday at noon in Thessaloniki a city bus driver forced two African immigrants to get off the bus. He responded to accusations from other passengers with the words: "Yeah, I'm from Golden Dawn. So what? ". The case has already been referred to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Tags: public transport disabled discrimination
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