During my nearly 44 years of working for this fine organization or serving on its Board of Directors, helping to develop another nonprofit group for public transportation travel trainers, or just getting away from it all on vacations, I’ve travelled around North America quite a bit. In doing so, I simply transferred in and out of a sedan taxi on my sliding board to get to and to move around my out-of-town destinations.
But around the turn of the century, my transferring skills diminished. Sliding in and out of a taxi or rental car became more difficult. And, renting a wheelchair-accessible van or minivan is possible in many places but really expensive wherever this option is available.
My initial introduction to a wheelchair-accessible taxicab was truly a Ralph Cramden speechless “hamina, hamina, hamina…” moment. I arrived at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on a sultry September day in 1992 to give two separate presentations about the Americans with Disabilities Act at a national conference of psychologists and social workers, and to a separate group of nurses working with persons who have spinal cord injuries.
With my two bags on a luggage cart, a Skycap led me to the taxi line where a dispatcher asked, “Would you like me to call an accessible taxi for you?” I was stunned but sensible enough to reply, “Sure!” Within minutes, an accessible full-size van taxi arrived, and a few minutes later, we were heading to my hotel after the driver secured me in my wheelchair with a chest/seatbelt and a four-point tie-down system.
I made a few other trips to Vegas on vacation in the 1990s, and on only one occasion did I come across an accessible taxicab driver who tried to wriggle out of transporting me. He paid the price, though, since the dispatcher sent him back to his base to learn how to properly board and secure a wheelchair-using passenger like me.
In 1996, I made two really nice vacation trips with a traveling companion. One was a 10 day Caribbean cruise out of Fort Lauderdale, where an accessible minivan taxi took us to the ship for our departure and returned us to the airport for our return flight. Later that year, we traveled on an accessible high-speed ferry from Seattle to the beautiful city of Victoria on Vancouver Island.
Upon arrival, we asked if accessible taxis were available. They were, and besides taking us to our hotel about a mile away, we also used them to visit Butchart Gardens and to travel to Swartz Bay to board a ferry to the city of Vancouver. During this leg of our vacation, my traveling companion climbed the stairs to talk to the Captain, who arranged for an accessible cab to meet us at the dock. And for our city sightseeing, we simply used Vancouver’s automated and fully accessible Skytrain.
I’ve used wheelchair-accessible public transportation and accessible taxis in many other places on the continent, including the Big Apple, Washington, DC, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Montreal, etc. Doing so has changed my life in more ways than you might think. Having had the opportunity to advocate for improved accessible transportation over the years, and then actually using such facilities, has also boosted my view of myself.
Feeling that I am a part of the society that we all live in, as opposed to sitting at home looking out the window and watching everybody else live their respective lives, just never worked for me. Being out in the world as much as possible has worked for me, and transportation, whether it’s me driving my own van or using some type of accessible public transportation, including taxis, is a right that all vets with disabilities have earned. Enjoy your travels!
Chair of the VetsFirst Committee
Our vets deserve greater access to transportation for work, school, medical care, other health services and recreation or leisure activities. Help make it happen!
Go to http://veteransdialogue.ideascale.com/ to participate in a national online dialogue sponsored by The Federal Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility and the U.S. Department of Defense. The dialogue, “Strengthening Transportation Choices So We Can Serve Those Who Have Served Their Country,” is for veterans, service members, their families, and community service providers. It will be open through June 8. Once you register, you’ll be able to share an idea, or comment or vote on someone else’s idea! The best ideas bubble up to the top.