I may be deaf-blind and physically impaired... I may wear leg braces and walk with a forearm crutch... It might be hard for people to imagine, but I try to be as independent as possible. When it comes to travelling, that means Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA). The problem is that PARTA just can't seem to get it right when it comes to meeting my needs.
I've been using PARTA for three years to travel to various locations around Portage County. I've endured a host of problems including excessively late pick-ups, return rides that take over an hour, being dropped off at the wrong doorway, so I can't find my way around inside and even being taken to the wrong building. One driver demanded payment from my father, even though Kent State students ride to campus for free. Another driver roughly shoved me into a seat on the bus. The sad truth is that PARTA is getting worse, not better. What happened on Wednesday illustrates my point.
I scheduled my ride to "Robinson new wing" for pool therapy. I'm actually going to Robinson Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation Center, but PARTA calls it the "new wing." They picked me up on time. The drive seemed longer than usual. I have no vision at all. I can't look out the window to see where we are going. I must put all my trust in the driver. With the way PARTA has been handling my case, that isn't so easy to do.
The bus stopped. The driver got out. I didn't know where we were or what was happening. I assumed we were picking up someone else. The bus started moving. After awhile, we stopped again. The driver tapped me on the arm to let me know we were at my destination. He walked me inside. That's when the confusion started.
I repeat, I had no idea what was happening. We were just standing there. The driver seemed to be bouncing around nervously on his feet. At last, someone grabbed my upper body and practically pushed me into a chair. I knew something was wrong, and I didn't like the way I was being treated.
My physical therapist, who can sign, later filled me in. The chairs in the lobby had been removed, and there was no volunteer on duty. The driver didn't know what to do. It would only take about five more steps into the hospital to take me to the rehab center, but PARTA won't do that. The lobby is as far as they will go.
The driver stopped a passing nurse. She found a chair and dragged me into it. The nurse then called security, who called the front desk, who called the rehab center, who called my physical therapist. Housekeeping and the Safety Director were also brought in on this. I sat like an idiot in my chair while everyone talked around me. I felt like I was wearing a neon sign that said "BIG PROBLEM."
As my therapist tried to deal with the mess, she discovered that PARTA tried to take me to Kent Rehab instead of the hospital. This time it wasn't just the wrong building but the wrong city.
So much time was wasted that my pool therapy was cut short. I thought the issue was over. Instead, there were more hospital people out in the lobby waiting for PARTA to arrive. My therapist said good-bye four times, only to return again. She did not like leaving me uninformed about what was going on around me.
My nerves were shot. PARTA arrived late. We then sat for 30 minutes. There were some drop-offs and pick-ups. The hospital is only 20 minutes away from my home. Yet, I was on that bus for two hours.
I am disabled, and I know my needs are unique. That does not make me a second-rate citizen of my community. I use paratransit because I want to be as independent as possible. I use PARTA because it's the only affordable option in this area. All I want to do is go to school, or to physical therapy or to my volunteer job at the Hattie Larlham Foundation. Why does PARTA have to make everything harder than it should be?