December 1, 2019
Sunday. Another Sunday that I can’t get to church. I forgot to call Dial-A-Ride to schedule my transportation yesterday before iits office closed at 5pm If I could walk or even get around in a regular wheelchair on my own,, I could call Go Go Grandparent, Lyft, Uber, or even a taxi to take me to church. But I can’t motate on my own without my Jazzy power chair. And I can’t get a ride today that can transport me and my chair to church. Oh, RTD does offer Van Go, a same-day paratransit service but it is unreliable to the maximum. Another long day at home in my apartment — time to write, thank you, Lord.
The first time I scheduled a ride with Van Go from my home to the bank, no ride showed up and I couldn’t get to the bank; as a result, I scheduled a round trip to the bank for the next day. On that day, my ride arrived on time and I got to the bank fine but after completing my banking and waiting more than forty-five minutes for my ride home to arrive, I headed out in my Jazzy power wheelchair and drove the five-plus miles home. Driving on the sidewalk seemed like it would be safer than on the street but I quickly discovered that sidewalks aren’t designed for wheelchair travel. The surface was uneven and broken along much of the distance. And crossing the street was scary. The pedestrian crossing signals didn’t operate oftentimes and the cuts in the curbs were abrupt; for that reason it was a somewhat treacherous undertaking. But before my stroke in 2009 I had ridden my own BMW motorcycle for over fifteen years and I was not deterred. I was determined to get home on my own, no matter how difficult it was and I did.
My long motorcycling experience prepared me to ride a power wheelchair — lean into the turns and relax my upper body and move my hips to smooth out travel over uneven pavement. With these skills I can travel as fast as the chair will go when the path otherwise allows it. I’ve clocked myself at four miles per hour with my twelve-pound chiweenie (chihuahua-dachshund mix) running along side of me. Lulu is her name and she’s my best friend and quite a trooper, accommodating my special needs.
Lulu and I lived in an assisted living facility, Atria Willow Glen in San Jose, California, for over six years before we moved to O’Connor Woods in Stockton, California a year and a half ago. Atria provided no-cost weekly transportation to medical appointments, banks, and churches, as well as shopping and pleasure trips. Atria’s small bus had a wheelchair lift and I could go in my power chair wherever the fully-able went. VTA Access, the County of Santa Clara’s paratransit service, offered inexpensive, mostly dependable accessible transportation, which I used for personal trips not provided by Atria.
Befiew I moved to O’Connor Woods (OCW), I didn’t realize how important good transportation was and is to me.
Whereas O’Connor Woods provides transportation to independent, ambulatory residents to medical appointments, shopping as well as pleasure trips, for those of us who are not ambulatory in assisted living (about ten of us), transportation to our appointments were available at an additional cost of $30 to $60 per hour over our rent and oftentimes there are no transportation arrangements made for those of us who cannot walk. On days when the independent residents go off on pleasure trips, I feel abandoned, rejected, and hurt. OCW does have an accessible bus with a lift and they use it sometimes for special outings to accommodate the non-ambulatory.
Although I was forced to retire from my career as a CPA by a stroke in 2009, I would like to work again, probably in sales and marketing. Obviously, dependable and consistent transportation to a job would be essential for me to work. Last week, however, on the day before Thanksgiving Day , I had to wait over three hours past the scheduled time to return home after my interview.
My sister doesn’t seem to understand why transportation is so important to me or why I even want to get a job but not having dependable transportation screams: “DISABLED,” to me. In addition, vehicle travel is something I have long enjoyed. It’s the journey i love no matter what the destination. I have traveled by car across the country dozens of times, every two or three years as a child and then occasionally as an adult. When I was a teenager, my dad took the family on short car trips on the weekend just for entertainment, that is until the “oil crisis” in 1973-74.
I’ve been racking my brain and asking for God’s guidance for months now as to how to get a grant to purchase an accessible van and to pay for vehicle costs as well as the salary of a driver for the first year. With those, four of my non-ambulatory friends and I can have dependable and regular transportation around town to medical appointments, shopping, church as well as the occasional outing out of town.
I believe that there is a nonprofit organization or government out there that would be willing to give us a grant or a company that will donate an accessible van for us. I just don’t know how and where to begin. Where there’s a will there’s a way. There is a way!