I wait for the bus in the morning across the street from the city’s WIC office. If you are unfamiliar with the requirements of WIC, you have to show up for regular appointments with your child. Today, just like every day, I watched women struggle to get strollers up ten concrete steps. You see, the WIC office is in a converted house. While I applaud the use of an existing structure, I can’t see any reason why they didn’t install a ramp.
Think of all the people locked out of that building by ten concrete steps: wheelchair users, walker users, possibly even people using canes or crutches. I guess those people never need WIC.
Then I got on the bus. Today, we rated a brand new, $500,000 bus. Now, I’m not arguing with the price tag. At least once a week this winter I ended up waiting outside in the dark, in subfreezing temperatures for as long as an hour and a half because the bus broke down. Once, when it was 2˚F (-17C), the door was fully open the entire trip. It just wouldn’t close. That was pleasant.
Anyway, we needed new buses, we got new buses, and I finally got to sit in one. They are very nice, however they have one design flaw. Keep in mind, I’m 5’1.5” (1.5m) tall. That is short, but it’s not unusually short. Keep that in mind while I explain how to signal a stop. There is a cord that runs along the windows on both sides, usually about 6” (15cm) above my head. You pull the cord, a little bell dings, a little sign lights up and the driver stops at the next intersection or marked bus stop. The seats on the new buses are stepped so that people in the back are no longer hidden by people in the front. I’d say that people in the back are about 5’ (1.5m) higher than the front row.
That wouldn’t be a problem except that the cord is at the same height from front to back. That means the cord is at about shoulder height in the back row, and 3’ (0.9m) over my head in the front. I had to stand up and reach over the seat to pull the cord. On a moving bus. That’s a good way to end up being thrown to the floor. (Yes, I have ended up on the floor of the bus before.) Mind you, the front seats flip up to allow wheelchair users space to ride the bus. Now how is someone in a wheelchair supposed to pull that cord? $500,000 and the most basic technology on that bus is inaccessible to large numbers of people who use the bus.
I have a suggestion. Instead of ignoring the entire disabled community, how about before you design anything for public use, you consult disabled persons- or anyone with a brain? It took me all of one nanosecond to see that steps of any number or kind would be a barrier to WIC’s clientele, let alone a wheelchair user. It took me one second of stretching my arm up while seated to realize the cord on the bus was inaccessible to short people, let alone people who cannot stand up to reach the cord.
Thinking, we should try it.