I recently won a pair of tickets to a Red Sox game at a race and forgive me as I didn't know who they were playing until the night of the game. If it isn't running I'm afraid I am really not interested, but don't hold it against me! Still, I live in New England and have taken my daughter Rachel and older son Matthew to a game in the past, so this was a perfect opportunity to take my younger son Patrick. The plan was to drive to the northernmost "T" Station (Boston's subway) avoiding Boston's one-way street confusion and inner city parking. Also taking the car meant less money spent on gas than the van, yet Patrick would have to use a manual wheelchair. Knowing the city is always under construction it was a better option as I can muscle Patrick over obstacles that he wouldn't make in his power chair. We would make an evening of going out for dinner and making it an adventure...
Alice and I lived in Boston many years ago, but we didn't ride the subway very often. I went to the MBTA website and refreshed my memory of the route to avoid delays and figured all was well. The night of the game Patrick and I arrived at Oak Grove Station on the Orange line during a heavy thunderstorm and waited in the car for about fifteen minutes catching glimpses of the subway trains leaving the station wanting to avoid the floods and getting soaked. Once the thunderstorm passed I got out an umbrella, jockeyed the chair next to the car and somehow managed to get Patrick in without him getting wet from the remaining light rain. I purchased our tickets and we boarded the next train to make one transfer before our stop. The ride to the Green Line went well (Being partially color blind I never understood color coding systems for the subway.) The car was filled with many people headed to the game and most seemed to get off at our stop. We boarded the inbound train and the driver came out to ask what station we were going. I told her thinking they must want to allow time for us to get off and not disrupt their schedule. This part of the line is older and the car screeched and groaned as we made our way through the old narrow tunnels. Soon we were at our final stop.
We got off the train and this time I had to back off and as the car was about eight inches above the platform. No problem, just where is the elevator. The driver looked out the window and asked if we were O.K. and we said we were. I went up one end of the platform and then to the other finding no signs and only seeing stairs. The train hadn't moved and a second driver asked if he could help. I told him I needed an elevator and he told me there was none at this stop. My face must have showed my "irritation" as he quickly began explaining what trains I needed to wait for and what stops I needed to take. I thanked him and said I would be fine then looked at the stairs. I began to roll Patrick to the stairs and both drivers began to tell me I couldn't take him that way. I'm thinking there's elevator and you're telling what I can't do? Thanks, but no thanks. I turned around and began pulling Patrick's chair backwards up the steps one by one. We got up to the first landing, maybe twenty or more steps, when an MBTA official approached us. He said we shouldn't be going up the stairs and I replied the station should have an elevator and there was nothing warning us in advance. He responded there was one on the next level to the street. Incredulous, I told him that made no sense. He said I should use another station on the way back and I wasn't supposed to be climbing stairs with a wheelchair. Thank you for your brief, yet useless advice pal! He decided he'd better leave us alone and disappeared back into the station. I finished pulling Patrick up the next flight and we found the elevator to the street.
Patrick and I found a decent restaurant and had dinner before the game. We enjoyed watching the game and I explained the strategy and told him how the field moved based on the batters strengths. We were right on the first base line in the front row. It was fun, yet the Sox weren't winning. We stayed to the seventh inning as I didn't want to fight major crowds getting on the T. On the way out I asked a policeman how to find an accessible station and he gave us directions. The next train had two high steps and I had to muscle Patrick up. The official at this station told us which station to leave to make our connection and we rode to that stop wondering how it would go. We exited the train and looked for directions to the Orange line. We followed a long corridor and reaching the end discovered the outbound train was on the other side meaning we had to find a way over. Guess what?!! No elevator inside to transfer over. The man in the ticket booth told us we had to leave the station by the external elevator and find another one back. Great. Once outside we couldn't cross the street as there was construction. I found a sign pointing to the next station with a wheelchair symbol. It was a three block walk and we found an elevator not too far from the main entrance. Getting onto the platform we were on the correct side and made our way back to our original stop. What a night!
Over the next several days I looked up ADA requirements and apparently the city of Boston is within the law. They have at least two thirds of their stations accessible, yet their people are poorly trained. My biggest error was not going directly to the disability section of their website before making my trip, yet having traveled in Washington, DC and other major cities that are truly accessible I didn't think Boston would be such a mess. Next time I will remember. My biggest complaint is the people who work for the MBTA weren't trained to help people who have mobility impairments and were not familiar with accessibility. This shows a lack of regard for people with disabilities by management, otherwise their people would be much better trained. Even in 2008 we still encounter ignorance from people whose job is related to public service at the expense of people who need a little assistance.
Oh, and on the way home we caught the news. The Red Sox won! Of course they waited to the eighth inning to come back from behind. The positive thing is Patrick and I spent an evening together while having to deal with a few obstacles.