In our discussion with Mary Reyes, she told us of the difficult challenges she faces in accessing public transportation. She explained that it is often an overwhelming experience.
Mary Reyes, First Former, Ladyville Technical High: “The steps of the bus are a little bit too high for me because I cannot put my feet that high as other people could put their feet so sometimes it takes us a while to get on the bus because we’re trying to figure out how we can get on the bus because these steps are too high from the ground so I’m trying to see if I can just sit down on the step and then just put my foot up from there and then go up and sometimes there is a conductor but she’s just watching us or sometimes they would have conductors that would help us other times there aren’t any conductors and the bus driver is just watching us like ‘Hurry up.’ They don’t tell us anything but you can almost hear it when they’re watching you hard.
Dale McDougall, Love FM News: And other people that are on the bus just sit there and do nothing.
Mary Reyes, First Former, Ladyville Technical High: “Yes they just sit there and they too are watching you like hurry I need to be somewhere.”
Dale McDougall, Love FM News: And how does that make you feel ?
Mary Reyes, First Former, Ladyville Technical High: “Very uncomfortable and it feels like I’m doing something wrong.”
Dale McDougall, Love FM News: So how do you think we can change it ?
Mary Reyes, First Former, Ladyville Technical High: “What I think the people around that work on the bus can do to change it is have a little bit more compassion for people, not only people with disabilities but older people, pregnant women, anybody with a young baby in their hands, anybody that has a lot of luggage on their hands because they do need help to get up because their hands are full so they need help to get on the bus. What I think they need to do is have the conductor, not just the conductor but anybody with a kind heart to help them up and what I think – don’t be mad at me for saying this but what I think the buses need to do is leave the first four seats open for people with disabilities and anybody who is pregnant, older people and just people who have their hands full.”
Mary told us that because the front seats are not prioritized for those with physical challenges, not only does it delay everyone else, but it makes it harder for her to get a seat.
Mary Reyes, First Former, Ladyville Technical High: “Sometimes on the bus the front seats are full so we need to go find a seat at the back so we need to be walking and the bus is shaking and we’re moving about and I don’t have balance so with the bus moving around it’s harder for me to grab on and hold on and sometimes the seats that I have to hold on have people sitting there so it’s harder for me to hold the seats. And when it’s time to come off the bus drivers are a little impatient so they’re like ‘where are you? Hurry up.’ They’re just watching you like ‘Where are you? Hurry up we need to be places.’ So I think it will just show us a little more compassion if the people on the bus leave the first four seats open.”
Dale McDougall, Love FM News: Do you think that our attitudes on a whole as Belizeans need to change towards people with disabilities ?
Mary Reyes, First Former, Ladyville Technical High: “Yes I think that the attitude needs to change because we don’t have the fault we’re born like that, come on stop being rude toward us.”
She also appealed to authorities to consider regulations to ensure that the first few seats on the bus are for the elderly, pregnant women and those with disabilities. She also called for more buses with wheelchair ramps.