In May 2009, Thurston County residents Michael and Shirley Williams purchased Greyhound bus tickets for a trip from Olympia to Detroit. “The Dirty Dog” is not exactly known for creature comforts, but the couple claims they were assured that Michael, confined to a wheelchair because of complications from a stroke, would have a handicap-friendly seat and other basic accommodations during the 25-day journey. But according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month in Western Washington federal court, Williams was treated like a second-class citizen in almost every conceivable away. The miseries he allegedly endured include:
• Not being allowed to exit the bus with other passengers during scheduled stops.
• Getting “knocked over on the bus when the driver failed to secure [his] wheelchair” and drove unsafely.
• Being “reliant upon strangers to carry his body up and down the bus stairs.”
• Getting “repeatedly subjected to profanity and blame” from bus drivers for slowing down the voyage.
• Being refused access to a bathroom (the onboard toilet was not handicap-friendly), and “forced to attempt to ‘pee in a cup.’ “
Williams and his wife understandably ditched the bus and found another way to Detroit and back. But when they called Greyhound to complain, they allegedly were ignored.
Last Monday, both Michael and Shirley sued Greyhound under the Americans With Disabilities Act, claiming they suffered “public humiliation” and “emotional distress” as a result of the bus drivers’ “extreme, callous, and outrageous conduct.” They seek reimbursement for travel expenses (current price of two tickets from Seattle to Detroit: $484) and medical costs, as well as damages “in excess of $75,000.”
A Greyhound spokesperson declined to comment on the pending litigation, but said in an e-mail that the company’s goal is to “make sure every Greyhound passenger has a safe and enjoyable travel experience.” As for Greyhound’s handling of passengers with disabilities, they say that with 48 hours notice, they “can assist with boarding and de-boarding buses, luggage, transfers, stowage, and retrieval of mobility devices,” during transfers, meal and rest stops, and other times “as reasonably requested.”
There was no mention of whether the pee cup is complimentary or comes with an added fee.