Blind couple file complaint after driver tells them to get off Metro bus

SEATTLE -- King County Metro has apologized after one of their drivers told two blind passengers that a bus was full and they had to get out.

Those passengers said they felt demeaned and discriminated during the ordeal, and they want all Metro drivers to get better training.

The incident happened near Pine and Broadway on Sunday afternoon in Capitol Hill.

The couple said the driver claimed the disabled section on the bus was full and they would have to find another bus to ride.

Metro said blind passengers are not required to ride in any one section on the bus.

“We were totally just discriminated against and made to feel really uncomfortable and unwelcome on a bus,” said passenger Cindy Bennett.

“Blatant discrimination and it was just really uncomfortable,” said her partner, Mike Mello.

Bennett and Mello, both blind, were shocked when a bus driver told them they had to leave the bus because the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, seating section was full.

“We were so shocked, it was such an uncomfortable situation,” said Mello. “The word I’ve been using is demeaning because we were literally told we weren’t welcome on the bus.”

“Completely over-the-top behavior,” said Marci Carpenter, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington

Carpenter said discrimination should not be tolerated by any of Metro’s passengers.

“This driver should have a clear understanding that you never, ever speak to a passenger this way,” said Carpenter.

Metro apologized for Bennett and Mello’s experiences. A spokesperson said the driver provided poor customer service.

“Blind passengers are not required to use the ADA priority seating area,” Jeff Switzer wrote in a statement. “We’ve identified the operator and his chief will be working with him on this issue and will take appropriate action.”

Bennett and Mello both hope the same mistake isn’t repeated.

“It’s not OK for their drivers to treat passengers whether we’re blind, sighted, or have any other disability in this manner,” said Mello, “It’s just not acceptable.”

A Metro spokesperson called the incident unacceptable, adding they will be taking steps to prevent it from happening again by reminding all of their drivers about the proper procedures for helping disabled customers.