Monday, April 18, 2011

Thinking, We Should Try It

(A windstorm tore out a power line at work, basically exploding our server. I may be in and out for a while, so enjoy this post I wrote on Word while waiting to get online.)

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.


  1. I've come to the conclusion that thinking must be painful for some. :)

  2. We don't have the stepped buses in Albuquerque, and the handicapped seats (in front, that also flip) have a button under the now-vertical seat bottom - that actually set off a special signal that doesn't just stay "stop requested" but "assist requested." So that's cool.

    But doesn't the WIC building go against federal access laws, like ADA?

  3. so...

    in theory, i can be "picked up" for anything i need. some bus service.

    but there are a thousand problems and i can NOT for the life of me figure out how ANYONE uses the damned thing.

    first - it's "curb to curb". the driver DOES NOT, no matter WHAT, get out of the vehicle.
    if you have someone to help you to the vehicle, chances are good you *already* have someone to take you* [good, not always] but most people who need this service DON'T have help. [and i can't use it, this is reason number 1. i LITERALLY cannot get out of my apartment without help]
    2. there's an HOUR AND A HALF window to pick you up. i TRIED to make an appointment, i told the lady - "i have a dr. appointment at 3:30" she said "we'll be there anywhere from 2pm to 5pm"
    which is REALLY a THREE HOUR window, but THEY call it an "hour and half" window.
    so i said "ok, my APPOINTMENT is at 330. lets try something earlier - say, 245"
    which leads to
    3. YOU HAVE TO WATCH FOR THEM. they don't call you. they won't leave the vehicle. if you don't have a window that faces where they're going to wait for you, they ACTUALLY EXPECT YOU to sit OUTSIDE for a MINIMUM of one hour and thirty minutes.
    except it might be up to THREE hours, because there's that whole "anywhere from 1.5 hours before your scheduled time to 1.5 hours AFTER your scheduled time"

    and i am literally fucking INCAPABLE of SITTING for that long.

    you have to schedule "2 business days" in advance [and when i said "ok, it's thursday, i'm calling for monday - and 2 business days is vague. does monday count as one of the days? does today?" she got REALLY bitchy - and it was my FIRST question! - and snottily said "today is 1 day. tomorrow is 2day. monday is 3 day"]

    if everything is scheduled 2 day - or more - in advance, and you HAVE to give them both your address and the address of the place they're taking you, why the fuck can't they actually SCHEDULE this shit?
    4: you call when your appointment is ended, and it can take up to TWO HOURS to be picked up. which could mean, potentially, 2 hours of sitting OUTSIDE [office closed] IN THE DARK [during those times of year] and the COLD [which it has been freezing here until very recently]

    i tried to be patient and reasonable - i said "i live in a basement apartment, i have NO windows that overlook the parking lot. there are 9 steps, which i can NOT get up without help, and my wheelchair, which i can NOT carry UP those same steps, and which i can NOT wheel myself for any great distance. is there no other way? do you not have transport personel who are able to help me out of the apartment, who are radioing some base that can call me?"

    she called me a "priviledged, whining white bitch" for asking that. she also told me "take what you can get, it's all you're getting" and went on to explain that people with REAL problems use this service, maybe i should call a cab. [this is the point where i asked for her supervisor, asked if the call had been recorded - she wouldn't say - and repeated, word-for-word, what had been said on both sides. [cont]

  4. [cont]

    the SUPERVISOR said "i only have your word on that" and that i was "throwing a temper tantrum, stop acting like a child" and that i should "get off my privileged ass and try working HER job and see if i still felt like i had any right to critisise them." i said that i HAD had her job before, and i'd have been fired for ANY insult to a caller, no matter HOW warranted, and further i'd done NOTHING to warrant being insulted except be poor and disabled. she said "white folk don't KNOW from poor" and i said "i'm Cherokee. you REALLY want to have that discussion". and then she hung up on me. i reported it to Caresource, the HMO for medicaid, but THEY didn't seem to care, either. they said "we'll see if there's a tape of the call, and if there is, and it matches what you've said, we'll see about having that operator written up." i need to figure out how to RECORD these calls]

    medicaid pays THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS A TRIP for this shit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    this is the only service available. and it's NEW - presumably, the other one was WORSE!

    i have no clue who set this up - but i GUARANTEE that they didn't bother to ask, not only disabled and elderly people, but SOCIAL WORKERS or DOCTORS or ANYONE who knows ANYTHING about what we need.

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