The 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome was on her way to a physiotherapy session.
Rabat – Ticket inspectors on a bus in Safi took 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome to a police station for boarding without a ticket. The ticket inspectors are employed by Spanish transport company Vectalia.
Zineb, the young girl, was on the bus to go to Mohammed VI physiotherapy center for one of her regular sessions. She wasn’t able to pay for a ticket.
For decades, people with disabilities have had the right to take public transportation for free in most Moroccan cities. However, when the city council of Safi signed a contract with the Spanish company, in January 2019, they omitted the right of disabled people to free transportation.
This change in policy caused many incidents where people with various disabilities, who had always taken buses free of charge, were forced to pay for a ticket or kicked off the bus.
Many Moroccans reacted to this incident on social media, questioning “the humanity” of the employees and bystanders.
“Those who took the girl to the police station are Moroccans, as I know. The passengers who were watching are also Moroccan. How come that nobody was generous enough to pay for the poor child’s ticket?” reads one comment on Facebook.
“People with Down syndrome can easily forget their books, even if they’re attentive. Sometimes they could be stubborn and refuse to communicate. Those employees are not well-trained and they’re uncultivated,” said another Facebook user.
The young girl received an apology from the company after the wave of support on social media. However, Vectalia’s public image was stained by the incident.
Safi is not the only city where this problem is raised. Free transportation for disabled people was also cancelled in Rabat and its neighboring cities, after the Spanish company Alsa started operating.
A Member of the Parliament, Ibtissame Azzaoui, from the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), addressed a question about the matter to the Minister of Interior, Abdelouafi Laftit, on September 11.
وجهت اليوم سؤالا كتابيا إلى السيد وزير الداخلية بخصوص أسباب إلغاء مجانية التنقل عبر حافلات النقل الحضري بالرباط للأشخاص ذوي الاحتياجات الخاصة وهو الأمر الذي كان معمولا به منذ سنين طويلة pic.twitter.com/AU79RAj0AY
— Ibtissame AZZAOUI – إبتسام عزاوي (@Ibtissame_azz) September 11, 2019
“People with special needs were surprised by Alsa cancelling their right for free transportation on urban buses, which they used to benefit from for many years. Now, they found themselves forced to pay for bus tickets, as an addition to the expenses and daily suffering they have to deal with in many domains. We would like to ask about the reasons behind this cancellation,” said the question.
The MP would like to find a common ground with the government in order for disabled people to benefit from free transportation or, at least, from reductions.