Lucky for us, there’s money to be thrown

One of the many, many things that bothers me about disability & accessibility is how many of the problems can be solved by throwing money at them.

Let me just give the simplest, bare bones problem that’s on my mind this month.

Once a week, Don attends an appointment that is on the other side of the city from us. He has three possible ways of getting there.

First, he can take public transit. There is one bus from our neighbourhood that gets to where he has to go. (This is an improvement – the bus he takes “directly” only recently became wheelchair accessible.) As anyone with a chronic pain condition will tell you, though, taking the bus anywhere can be extremely painful. The bus drops him off a few blocks from where he needs to be, and he “just” has to navigate the non-existent curb cuts and the broken side walks. Then he gets to reverse the whole process, except the return trip is during rush hour, and wow do people get really pissy when a full-time wheelchair user needs a bus during rush hour.

Second, he can attempt to book Access-A-Bus. In our city, Access-A-Bus must be booked a week in advance. Not 8 days in advance, not 6 days in advance, just seven days in advance. You are not guaranteed a space if there are too many people that day. You will get a phone call two days beforehand if you’re going to be on the bus. You have no control over the return trip, other than that there will be one, and you should let them know when you’ll be available. Although Access-A-Bus is free for users, it’s not the most effective way of getting around.

The third option is that Don takes a taxi. It costs about 25$ one way. The taxi can be pre-booked on either end. It usually comes on time. It takes him exactly where he wants to go, drops him off at the door, and picks him back up at the same location. It just blows through a large-ish wad of cash every time.

Don takes a taxi to this appointment a lot. Unlike a lot of people with disabilities, we have access to family financial support. We can afford that 50$ to make sure Don can get to his appointment on time and in a relative degree of comfort.

For other people we know, the options are much smaller: Be in large amounts of pain while trying to get around the city, or don’t go out at all. (Buying a car is also a “throw money at it” solution. It also assumes you can drive, and have a place to put a car.)

People with disabilities are disproportionately poor. Many also have monthly costs that add up pretty quickly, like medications, purchase and repair of mobility aids, doctor’s appointments, etc. They may need to pay interpreters. Some of them have dietary restrictions or food allergies that require “special” food items, like wheat-free flour or lactose-free milk. A lot are no where near as financially privileged as Don and I are, and cannot afford the expense of a pain-limited trip to the doctor.

A well-funded, well-advertised Access-a-Bus program, along with funding increases to ensure that all buses are wheelchair accessible can make such a difference. But that is not the financial priority of my city at the moment. (Apparently, it’s a high-speed ferry of some sort, and a new hockey arena.)

So, instead, aiming to keep Don’s pain levels as low as possible (he’s recovering from surgery at the moment), we throw money at the problem. And thank our lucky stars that there’s money to be thrown at it.

So many others are not nearly so lucky.

6 Comments

  1. Actually, Access – a – Bus runs on the same system as regular public transit, pass, tickets, or exact fare. Their usually pretty good on their target return times but have a horrible tendency of running 1-2 hours late. The place I have to wait has no seating near by and the bus physically can’t get closer to the doors.

  2. This is why it’s all about intersections: having privilege in one area (class/money) can help alleviate (or at least mitigate) oppression in another area (disability).

    I too have been immensely lucky to be able to afford most of what I’ve needed to deal with my disability with relative ease.
    .-= Arwyn´s last blog ..Why I didn’t celebrate “World Mental Health Day” =-.

  3. Don,

    I have no recollection of this, but I guess I’ll believe you. 😉

    Arwyn,

    *nodnod* It really bothers me, though, because we can only afford to do these things through teh generosity of our families. And it shouldn’t be that way, because what about all the people who do not have that option? *sigh*

    I’ve heard stories that make my hair stand on end, about people who can’t afford wheelchairs, so not only do they never leave the house, to get around the house, they crawl everywhere. That should *never* happen in a country like Canada.

  4. Is there a charity we can donate to that will help with things like this? How is Access-a-Bus funded?

    (I just remembered http://www.whizz-kidz.org.uk/, which my workplace supports, but that’s only for children, and it would be good to know about others.)

    And yes, privilege in one area alleviating or mitigating oppression in another area is so true.

  5. In Halifax, Access-a-Bus is part of the public transit system, so things get funded through the municipality. So there isn’t really a charity for it that I’m aware of. I know that other places have charity options.

    If you’re looking for a charity in your area that helps people with mobility-related issues that would need a wheelchair but can’t afford it, google “wheelchair recycling program” in your city. Don’s sexy sexy wheelchair of awesome was purchased by the Accessibility Foundation, although they initially looked at finding a used one. (Not available for his height, sadly.)

  6. This is pretty much why I haven’t been in to see my therapist since January. I have to be capable of walking a few blocks, riding on a bus for an hour and a half, walking a few blocks, sitting in the waiting room for half an hour because the bus gets me there that early or five minutes late, then the walking, busing, walking again. It takes the entire day and all of my spoons for that week, usually. And I have to cancel 24 hours in advance if I can’t make it or pay the whole fee (if I make the appointment, I only owe $3 thanks to medical assistance). So I have to be relatively sure I can DO all of that in order to keep the appointment.

    Or, I could pay $50 or so for the cab, but then how would I buy groceries?!

    There is some program in town I could try where they’d pick me up and drop me off for free or super cheap, but it would involve more paperwork than I can handle and I’d have to initially pay for the thing and then get paid back so I’ve never bothered to try it out.

    For other medical appointments, my mom comes into town and takes me to help advocate for me, which is incredibly nice of her – so I rarely miss those. But I cancel and reschedule the therapy so often it’s distressing.