Can I get a taxi? Can I get a witness?
When you’re disabled, your transportation options aren’t great. In this piece, I don’t have any real solutions to the problems I bring up, but I’d like to at least start a conversation. And who knows, maybe someone out there might have some advice for me. Okay, so I’ll go through the various scenarios and the problems that each presents.
I use the strikethrough to indicate this really isn’t an option for me right now. There are a host problems that make this difficult. Most states can and do assist you financially when purchasing a vehicle outfitted with a lift or ramp and hand controls. Unfortunately, I live in a state, Virginia, that requires one to undergo a number of Herculean labors before the process can even begin. Put another way, the accessible van is the cool prize at Chuck E. Cheese. You know, the one on the top shelf that’s been collecting dust up there as far back as you can remember? But even if I managed to cut through all the red tape, I wouldn’t be able to get the van outfitted with the hand controls that I need. At this point, I still have enough strength and range of motion to do my own transfers and other tasks. Thus it makes more sense to use a scooter than a wheelchair. But in order to use any of the current hand controls on the market, I would need to be in a wheelchair. I realize this is a matter of safety, but still…
My parents drop me off and pick me up
This is feasible, as my parents own a van with hydraulics that kneels down and has a ramp in the back. In terms of time to get to my destination this is the most efficient. I also don’t end up arriving at my destination inordinately early or late. This is fine in a pinch, but my parents have their own lives too. I can’t expect them to chauffeur me around all the time. Not to mention, I want to become more independent. There’s always public transportation…
Public transportation/paratransit service
I suppose I’m fortunate that there is a door-to-door reduced price, public paratransit service in my area, the DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia). But that’s about the only good thing. This whole system is just so fretted with problems that I could go on forever. For brevity’s sake, I’m going to list them in bullet points.
Of all of these problems, I feel that a driver’s inability to properly strap down my chair or his reckless driving are the worst. My physical safety is at risk. I’d really hate to break a bone because of someone else’s negligence. Though I haven’t been injured in my travels per se, my back, neck, and ribs have been taking a real beating the past year or so.
Just how inefficient is this paratransit service? Since the beginning of the year, I worked 49 hours at the Folger Shakespeare Library. That’s hours worked. In terms of time traveling to work, I tallied it up a couple nights ago, it was 93 hours. Don’t get me wrong, I love working at the Folger Shakespeare Library. I just hate the commute.
This of course assumes that you can actually find an accessible cab. In D.C., it’s fairly easy to find an accessible cab service. But that isn’t always the case. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to whether or not there will be an accessible cab service in a particular city or town. Orlando is good. Richmond, VA is good. Boston, so I’ve heard, is terrible. New Haven, CT is terrible. NYC I have no idea. Fortunately, all the buses in NYC have kneeling hydraulics and fold-out ramps. At least that was my impression.
Then there’s the matter of expense. If you’re in a big city, cab fare is always steep. Living in the D.C. area, the average cab fare is anywhere from $40-$60.
And then there’s safety. Though I complain that some of the paratransit service’s drivers don’t know how to tie down my scooter, that’s only about 20%. Not great odds. But better than when riding a taxi. Most accessible cab drivers have no idea how to strap down a wheelchair or scooter of any kind. Often they’re in a hurry. They only tie you down partially, if at all. Sometimes they don’t even remember the straps and seat belts.