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Last Updated: Friday, 9 January, 2004, 20:19 GMT
Disabled sisters 'thrown off coach'
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News Online disability affairs reporter

Part of motorway
The family's holiday was cut short after a short motorway journey
Two sisters are claiming compensation after they were allegedly thrown off a coach with their elderly mother because of their disabilities.

Sharon Simon, who is blind, and her sister Iris Rosenfield, a wheelchair user, were on a week-long coach trip in November through National Holidays with their 81-year-old mother Matilda when the incident happened.

National Holidays has offered the family a full refund for the holiday and denied the women were made to leave the coach because of their disabilities.

But the case has been described by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) as "the most appalling and blatant case of discrimination" it has dealt with.

'Driver drove off'

The organisation is calling for a change in disability legislation which currently offers no protection to people with disabilities when travelling on public transport.

The RNIB has written to National Holidays at its Leeds address and is pursuing a civil claim for compensation against the company on behalf of the family.

Mrs Simon, 46 and Miss Iris Rosenfield, 55, from Fleetwood in Lancashire, claim the driver refused to help them board the bus, leaving their elderly mother to assist them.

He then allegedly drove off leaving their luggage behind, although he later returned to retrieve it.

When the coach reached a motorway service area in Knutsford, Cheshire, the women were told they had to get off.

The sisters say they told National Holidays about their disabilities several months before their holiday to the south coast and France was due to start.

'Disruptive behaviour'

National Holidays sent a taxi to take them home.

"We couldn't believe what was happening to us," said Mrs Simons.

"The driver had no regard for us whatsoever: he refused to offer my mother or us any assistance, he made us feel awful and he wasn't bothered in the slightest about us missing our holiday."

National Holidays said in a staement: "The reason for Mrs Simons' party leaving the holiday coach was in no way due to their disabilities of which we were made aware.

"Mrs Simon's party's behaviour on the coach was very disruptive towards both fellow passengers and also the coach driver, and was seen to represent an unsafe situation with regard to both other passengers and the driver himself."

The company says it has provided "appropriate reimbursement" and that it regrets "any upset caused by these circumstances".

RNIB Legal Officer Catherine Casserly said: "People may think it unbelievable that the sisters have no protection under the Disability Discrimination Act, but as it stands, a disabled person who is travelling on a public service vehicle has no claim."

Mrs Simon and Miss Rosenfield have asked for a full explanation and an apology.

The RNIB hopes to use existing consumer protection laws to secure compensation.




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