Wes Hosking, Herald Sun, Melbourne, April 18, 2012
A boy, 3, and his mum were berated for sitting in a train's special-needs seats because he didn't appear to be disabled.
Brooke Stein was reduced to tears after an elderly woman began ranting at her and son Alex, whose disabilities include cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
The woman even told other passengers on the city-bound service from Warrnanbool last month that the pair were in the wrong spot and wouldn't move.
"I was just dumbfounded," Ms Stein said. "I physically couldn't look at her, I was so upset. "I have never come across it before in my life and I did not expect I would."
A disability group and V/Line have pleaded for greater understanding, amid reports of special-needs passengers being given the cold shoulder simply for using areas they are entitled to use.
The Grovedale mother and her son boarded the train at Marshall station in Geelong. They were on the way to an appointment at the Royal Children's Hospital.
They are entitled to use special-access areas on pub¬lic transport because Alex has seizures and can be difficult to control.
"You may not see it, but he can be a danger to himself and to other passengers," Ms Stein said.
"Trains get so busy. There are a lot of people on them now, and you need that space to be able to sit with him," she said.
Scope chief executive officer Jennifer Fitzgerald, who has seen commuters with special needs given hostile looks, said disability wasn't always physical.
"It can be sensory. It can be intellectual," she said.
Australia was a signatory to a United Nations convention on rights for people with a disability, and special-access areas were part of a state government commitment to provide accessible public transport, she said.
V/Line said it was disappointed in how Ms Stein and Alex had been treated. "All our passengers, without exception, have the right to be treated fairly and equally on our trains and at our stations," a spokesman said.
Designated access areas were on all trains, and passengers were encouraged to call a conductor if they needed help.
LISA Comment: To be fair to the public, they find it difficult when the person, especially a child, is very normal looking.
Parents with children or young adults with autism, often suffer as the public see this very normal, indeed, good looking child with bad behaviours.
The public see the mother as not properly controlling the child .... This can be a nightmare for mothers!