now for another kind of access

As a blind person I am extremely reliant on public transit. At least until 2018 or so when self driving cars hit the market. Being so reliant makes me vulnerable to the lack of responsibility and access in public systems. The other day I left work somewhat later than usual. It was about 5:30 or so on Wednesday. I got on the bus at my usual stop and told the driver where I wanted off. The driver confirmed by repeating the name of the street. I said thank you and sat down. The driver did yell at me at this point because I was looking for my seat and blocking the aisle. I don’t understand why AC transit is not like other transit agencies that post signs and keeps seats near the front of the vehicle available for disabled and elderly passengers. Every other transit system I have written on follows these rules. The Bay Area rapid transit San Francisco Muni system and sam trans in the South Bay. Even in other states I’ve always found that the seats are made available and Free. Back in Canada there are also signs posting what the penalty is if passengers don’t yield the seats. But Alameda County and Contra Costa County transit does not follow this federal law. So instead I have to fend for myself and if I block the I’ll it’s also my fault. This transit agency after promising it for many years added automatic stop announcements last year. Interestingly enough the announcements that they added only meet the minimum requirements. This means that only key stops get announced. The bus route I take has interesting choices for the key stops. So for example, the first two stops are announced and then there is a long stretch of road with about eight or nine stops in a straight line with each other they do not get announced. It’s very easy to count turns and changes in direction but when all the stops are in a straight line and if the driver doesn’t stop at each one there’s no way to know where you are. Then there’s a very significant turn that can be identified with two stops right after it being announced. Up until December there were then four more stops straight downhill that were not announced. In December I was able to request a change. my personal stop was added. My stop was the last one along one of the straight-aways before the next announcement. If I missed my stop then I would be dropped off four or five blocks downhill below where I should be. I understand that the law says only key stops must be announced but really knowing where you are relies on a lot more help than that. So to finish my story the ride went pretty much without incident until, my stop announcement was made. As I heard someone else pull the bell I stood up immediately and waited at the front door for my stop. I felt the bus stop at the stop sign and then keep on going right past my stop. As the bus accelerated past my stop I asked why he was not stopping at my street. He said no one pulled the bell so he didn’t have to stop I was certain I had heard the bell. I also explained that I had told him where my stop was when I got on. He said “I don’t care you need to pull the bell and that’s all there is to it everyone tells me what stop they need and I can’t be expected to remember any of them.” Every time I have ridden the bus when the bell is pulled OR someone is standing at the front door the driver stops at the next stop. Also drivers always ask me where I’m going so that they can help me remember where to get off. Most drivers actually care that a blind person gets off at the right stop. Being told by a driver that he doesn’t care and that it doesn’t matter what I tell him infuriates me to no end. I’d like to think that I am usually polite but people like him make me want to scream. Even just writing this has got me angry again.

By lucy greco

Lucy is a technology enthusiast that is passionate about getting people with disabilities the best access to the same technology as their able-bodied peers.

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