Not too long ago I told you about my mom’s cool wheelchair and the adapted van we have so she can go places in her chair. The van is wonderful but for my mom to be able to use it she needs either my dad or a friend to drive. There are times when she needs to go to an appointment with one of her doctors or to have a procedure done at the hospital. Sometimes these are during a time when no one is available to drive her in our van. Because her wheelchair is so big and my mom always needs to use it she can’t just call a taxi to come and give us a ride. This could have been an ongoing inconvenience for everyone but fortunately, my mom found a solution.
My mom told me about how she searched for transportation options when she first started using the wheelchair. She called a variety of places that she thought might offer this type of service. But the answer was always “I’m sorry but we can’t help you.” She was becoming a little discouraged but she persisted. Finally, through one of the calls, she found out that there was something in our area called “paratransit.” This offered just what she needed! Paratransit is a supplemental bus service for people with disabilities. It is usually associated with the public bus system for a town or city.
My mom has been using paratransit for more than 24 years. She told me how very grateful she is to have this service available. It gives her a piece of independence that she otherwise wouldn’t have. I am glad they offer this in our area because I love it when just my mom and I can go somewhere on our own. It makes me feel extra special and quite important. I know she is braver and more confident to go places without my dad when she knows she can depend on me to help as needed.
In our area, the paratransit buses are smaller than a public bus but bigger than a van. They are set up a little differently than either of these. There is a big lift that folds out and lowers to the ground for my mom to roll her chair onto. Then it raises up to get her level with the floor of the bus. Once there she goes into the bus and gets in position so the driver can attach straps to her chair. While the driver is attaching the straps I sit in front of my mom so I’m out of the way. After she is all set I lay down right next to her chair. When we get to our destination the straps get removed and then the lift lowers us to the ground… and off we go!.
I ride on the lift with my mom and don’t mind being there at all. But I was kind of unsure the first few times we went on the paratransit buses. The lift seemed a little scary and the ride was bumpy and noisy. This was different than anything I had done before.
Are you ever unsure or a little scared when trying something new? My mom was so encouraging and assured me that we were safe on the lift so I knew I would be okay. While riding on the bus she talked to me every time we went over the big bumps. Soon I didn’t even notice the noise! I quickly learned to go on the lift with her and lay quietly by her chair while on the bus.
We have used paratransit hundreds of times so I feel like I’m an old pro at navigating the lift and gong on the bus now but it did take some practicing in the beginning. My mom tells me that even when something feels scary or different at first it will get easier the more we do it. I always try to remember her wise words of wisdom. I trust my mom and know she will take good care of me and she knows I’m there for her too. My mom and I make a great team!
We haven’t used the public buses in our area because we use paratransit. But we have been on them while on vacation at Walt Disney World. Have you ever ridden on a public bus? Those great big buses have a ramp that folds out similar to our van. My mom can just roll right up into the bus. They use the same kind of straps that they have on the paratransit buses to tie my mom’s wheelchair down. That way it stays in place while the bus is moving. On these buses, there isn’t as much room for me because the area for the chair is smaller. But I do a really good job of curling up into that tighter space so I’m out of the way of the other people who are also on the bus.
My mom and I are grateful for the transportation options that are available to us. We can go places either with my dad or our friends or even just by ourselves!
Here is a video that shows us getting on and off a paratransit bus. This was made a little over two years ago. You may notice that. the chair my mom is using here is different than the one she has now. This was her old chair that she used for many years. She got a new one just over a year ago. I am quite sure in my post about the van that I forgot to tell you that her chair was fairly new. She likes it much better than the one you see here in this video.