DENVER - The mother of a disabled baby says an RTD bus driver violated their rights in his effort to enforce the transit system's controversial stroller policy.
Maya Baca says she was forced her to unhook her daughter's medical equipment from the stroller and lug everything up the bus stairs. Baca's 17-month-old daughter Davaya was born prematurely and has Down syndrome. The little girl needs an oxygen tank and a feeding machine.
"She's so fragile; she's been through so much," said Baca.
Since March, RTD has asked parents to fold up strollers and carry their kids on board, to ensure the bus has room up front for wheelchairs.
In bus security video from the June encounter, the driver won't lower the ramp for Baca, her uncle, and Davaya in her stroller. Even as they request an exception because of Davaya's medical needs, the driver tells them they must break down the stroller and haul around the equipment separately. As she struggled on board, Baca says she felt humiliated and mad. She says she was nearly in tears.
"I just felt he wanted to be a jerk," Baca said about the driver.
RTD created the stroller policy as part of a lawsuit settlement with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. The coalition had argued that people with disabilities were unable to use wheelchair securement areas on the bus because they were clogged with strollers and grocery carts. Scott Reed, a spokesman for the transit service, admitted what happened to Baca and her daughter was likely a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"It's not acceptable," said Reed.
Reed says an RTD bulletin to bus drivers in April told them to always offer the lift ramp to disabled riders in strollers and to allow them to use the wheelchair securement area in the front of the bus. Drivers aren't even supposed to ask what the disability is.
"We do apologize for the way this was handled and do understand it did put the mother in a very uncomfortable situation, which was not our intent," Reed said.
RTD is now retraining all bus drivers and promises will mail Baca a letter to apologize.
"She's not a just a piece of luggage to lug around, she is my child," Baca said.