DENVER — Mothers who ride some of the 1,000 RTD buses along the Front Range are worried about a change in policy that went into effect Monday.
The Regional Transportation District is now strictly enforcing a long-standing policy that helps the disabled.
But some moms say it hurts them in the process.
Life around the home can be hectic with four kids for single mom, Ruth Wood.
But outside it, she says RTD is making it dangerous.
The transportation company is enforcing a policy enacted in 2003 requiring large items like strollers and grocery carts be collapsed before boarding. Those items must then sit, out of the aisle, and behind the front area reserved for wheelchair area.
“I usually have a 20-month-old with me every day. And I can’t have him run around the street when I fold up his stroller,” says Wood. She has to use both hands to fold the stroller because of carpel tunnel syndrome.
Plus, only the handicapped can sit in the “securement area”—even if no one is sitting there.
Wood sat in that section Thursday morning. She says there wasn’t a single disabled person sitting there. And if there were, she says she’d be the first one to move.
It didn’t matter. The bus driver kicked her off the bus.
“I feel like parents and children are being discriminated against,” says Wood.
But Scott Reed with RTD says it was the disabled who felt wronged and filed a lawsuit because for years, the able-bodied took their seats and wouldn’t give them up.
Reed says they had relaxed the rules to help mothers and those with large items sit up front. But that was only on the condition they moved if a person in a wheelchair got on the bus.
“We had situations where people did not cooperate and refused to move, regardless of the fact there was a person there in a wheelchair. That created conflicts and put RTD in violation of the law,” says Reed.
So RTD settled the lawsuit agreeing to enforce the existing Americans with Disability Act rules.
RTD is letting its passengers know about the change through a recorded message, new signs and brochures.
“One time I was on the bus with a keg taking up the securement area. So this is not just about strollers,” says Julie Reiskin with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, which filed the lawsuit.
She wants people to know this change isn’t against anyone. Rather, it’s for equality for those who need it most.
“There are only two places on the entire bus for people with mobility impairments to sit. We don’t have a choice. This (wheel) chair doesn’t fold,” says Reiskin.
RTD says its drivers are required to help a mother collapse her stroller. But the mother has to ask for that help.
It is also training its drivers on the revised policy.
It expects a few bumps in the road as everyone gets use to the change.