THE mother of a seriously-ill child is fighting for laws to be enforced to tackle selfish bus passengers, saying they are adding to her daughter’s health woes.
Terri McElrue’s three-year-old daughter, Keira Moore, is so ill that she can only walk a few steps before becoming out of breath.
The ailing youngster has undergone two open-heart operations.
But bus passengers, including mothers with prams, are making her life even harder by using the parts of the vehicles designated for wheelchairs – in defiance of a little-known law.
The youngster – who lives with her mother and elder brother Lewis, five, in Nash Avenue, South Shields – suffers from a heart condition, called pulmonary atresia, a malformation of the pulmonary valve obstructing the bloodflow from her heart to her lungs.
Her condition means she needs a wheelchair to get around.
Keira also suffers from DiGeorge syndrome, leaving her with a depressed immune system.
Terri, Keira’s full-time carer, says the behaviour of other passengers means she regularly can’t get on buses.
She said: “Passengers are required by law to make way if a wheelchair user wants to get on the bus, but they just don’t.
“There have been a lot of times that mums have been in the wheelchair bay with their pram and they just won’t move. There’s nothing the driver can really do.
“Last week, I stood with Keira for 40 minutes before I could get on a bus. Four came, but we couldn’t get on because people wouldn’t make room in the wheelchair bay.
“I think it’s just disgraceful and pure ignorance. I would have thought people would be more sympathetic to a little girl in a wheelchair, but it’s obvious they don’t care.
“I could never do that to someone if things were the other way around. I’d be ashamed of myself.
“It’s really upsetting that people would ignore the law and leave Keira out in the cold waiting for the next bus.
“Her immune system is that low that catching a cold could easily turn into pneumonia, and she could end up in hospital for a couple of months. It’s really not safe for her.”
Terri uses Stagecoach’s No3 and No4 services to travel to her son’s school, Biddick Hall Infants, in Galsworthy Road, or into the town centre to shop.
Not being able to get on buses means that Lewis has been late for school on several occasions.
Stagecoach says that making way for a wheelchair is a legal requirement, and the firm displays signs on its buses outlining the rule.
Terri added: “I’m not just speaking for my daughter. Other people who use wheelchairs must be having the same problem.
“It’s not like I’d stand there and watch them struggle either. I know that getting your baby out of a pram and folding it can be difficult, but I would help them.
“It’s fair enough for people to use the space when there are no wheelchair users on the bus, but if one wants to get on, the law says they have to move.”
A Stagecoach spokesman said: “We are very sorry indeed to hear that Ms McElrue is having problems with gaining access to our buses with her daughter’s wheelchair.
“It is a legal requirement that other bus users make this space available to wheelchair users, including moving or folding buggies, and there are clear instructions on board.
“We have recently updated our notices to make the legal position even clearer and have instructed our drivers to ask customers to move.
“Looking at our records, we haven’t had any recent complaints of this nature in South Shields, and we would ask any customer having problems to contact us with details of the specific journey so we can investigate fully.”