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Disabled residents unhappy with new Wave Transit services

READ MORE: Disabled residents unhappy with new Wave Transit services
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The Vision Voucher Program has been around since the mid 90’s. But soon, the meter on the program, will run out. Brenda Mellick considers herself pretty independent; a luxury most of us enjoy. But that independence is challenged daily. Ms. Mellick is legally blind. For the past four years she has been using Wave Transit's Vision Taxi Program, a program that allows visually impaired residents to ride in taxis, at a reduced rate. The vouchers cost $3 each, and residents can purchase up to ten a month. The cost difference is paid for by federal funds though Wave Transit. But as of June 30th, the voucher program will be replaced with a van service for the disabled. Wave Transit assistant director Arlanda Rouse said, "Because this is a voucher program dedicated to only visually impaired passengers, the other disabled passengers on the other programs were not receiving the same type of service." Wave said they have to do away with the Vision Voucher Program because it is not meeting federal standards. To receive funding, equal service has to be provided for all people with disabilities. Rouse said there are some pros to using the van service. It will meet federal requirements, and offer unlimited rides to users instead of just the ten a month. A con is that appointments need to be made 24 hours in advance. "There will be some loss of convenience, but you will have the ability to travel more during the month," Rouse said. Dozens of visually impaired residents will be absorbed into the Wave van service that already makes more than 300 trips a day. That is why Ken Lafar said the van service just will not do. "It's worth it to us to have the mobility and the ability to get where we need to go, when we need to go,” he said. “As oppose to waiting a day ahead and trying to do all that it doesn't make sense." Both Brenda Mellick and Ken Lafar said they are taking their fight for the taxi voucher program to lawmakers. They have already contacted city council, and Congressman Mike McIntyre. This change will also hurt the taxi companies. Both companies WWAY spoke with Thursday said the loss of the income from the voucher system will be felt.

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Taxi Voucher Program

My wife is legally blind, and I have witnessed her trying to make use of the van service. I have seen two serious problems with it. First, it is not reliable. After scheduling her pickup 24 hours in advance to travel to a doctor appointment, she called when the van was late only to find that the service had left her ride off of the schedule for the day. Naturally she missed her appointment. The next time she attempted this for a doctor appointment, the van was over an hour late. Although the doctor was able to work her in when the van finally did drop her off, on the return trip she had to call a taxi after waiting over two hours and being told by the service that the van "would be there when it gets there". The second issue is that the van offers no mobility assistance to those that are blind. The van just "drops you off". Folks who are blind do learn how to navigate familiar surroundings such as their home, but just being "dropped off" in front of a doctors office can leave them wondering which way the door is. The taxi service solves both of these issues. It is far more reliable and punctual, and the taxi driver is always helpful in assisting blind folks to the door. While the reliability / punctuality issue is a challenge for all those who are disabled, the second issue is unique to those who are blind. In sincerely hope we can save the taxi voucher program. While it may not be "unlimited" as the van service is, It is still a far more effective service for our blind citizens. Pierre

Pros and Cons of new Wave Transit Program

I am legally blind for the last 4 years and have used both the taxi voucher program and the van. It did not take me long to figure out that the van program had many glitches. Out of the four times I used the van service, only one of those scheduled inadvanced services actually got me to my appointment on time and promptly returnded home. The other three schedule appointments were either a "no Show" or late; causing me to cancel my appointments and/or calling for a cab ride and noitfying my doctor that I would be late causing his schedule to be thrown off. I was advised to come in and he would work me in at his convenience. One other time the van showed up when I never scheduled a ride. It didn't take me long to figure out that I must use my taxi vouchers exclusively for set appointment if I wanted to get there and back with in a reasonable amount of time. I have had to wait more than 1 1/2 hours for the van to come get me and then another hour riding while they took other riders to their destinations. If you had to choose which form of travel; what would you deem reasonable? I can honestly say that I believe in all disabled persons should be treated with equal respect. If the van could provide me with reliable transportation I would use it. I don't mind waiting but do find fault with being forgotten or excessively late. The 24 hour in advance is not the issue with me. I tried it their way and it failed me. I have been going to school for the blind and have successfully completed an advanced O&M (orientation and mobility) cane training. y . I had to use the bus line to complete my O&M training. The bus drivers and user were very kind and helpful but I found that the bus stops were such that I had to cross very busily traveled roads; something dangerouly impossible for me. Even when I get my Seeing Eye Guide dog, I have been trained not to cross roads such as; Oleander Dr., College Rd, Market ST and others. It isn't safe for a sighted person; let alone a sight impaired or blind person. I am young and want very much to keep on training to over come my disability and become an active individual of this community. I want to return back to college to get a degree in psychology so that I may help other people to make the best out of their situations. I believe things just happen in life, not that any one thing happens for a reason. It is just life and one has to make the best of it. So, before you judge others, ask yourself what it might be like if you or one of loved ones had to contend with my daily challenges. I am not one to sit back and pity myself for long. I did have a hard time at first adjusting to my acute vision loss but I got past it. I hope this helps our community to better understand why we (sight impaired and blind) feel that the new Wave Transit Program is not the best organized system. Respectively, Brenda Mellick

Disabled residents unhappy with new Wave Transit services

I hate it that some people will be unhappy with the different service now. I just think that it'll be better, because now all the different types of handicapped people will have the opportunity that only certain ones had, when it itself is only another handicap when you are very limited to getting around. It may inconvenience some people because of the 24hr. ahead of time call they will have to make, but I don't feel that way at all. More and more people are having to give up their convenciences every day. That's life. It only makes it more fair to other people. I myself have a little bit of a handicap, but if I had to depend on other people's help to get me around, I'd probably starve. People that aren't handicapped need to think about how lucky they really are. I just pray it works out.....

Return trips

I wonder how the return trip is set up. If you're going to/from a job, that's easy to schedule. But a trip to the grocery store, the mall, even doctor's appointements, social services, trips to the libray, and so on, that's not so easy. Will the potential riders have to schedule drop of and pick up times, allowing themselves a certain amount of time where they are going (which isn't so easy with certain trips)? Or can they call for pick up? Or do the drivers wait? Or what? Andrew

Pros and cons

There's a lot to say about this. For those who traveled infrequently (to grocery stores, doctor's appointments, and the like), the voucher program was useful. And if you didn't travel too far, those taxi companies that accepted the vouchers weren't bothered too much. At least the drivers didn't appear too upset over it. But if you're a working disabled person who can't drive, and the bus service doesn't fully service your needs, the voucher program was useless since you'd need to travel twice a day, 5 days a week, 4 weeks per month, on the average full time employment. This means some disabled folks had limited options. An unlimited van ride for ALL disabled folks certainly opens the door for many folks who can work but had no reasonable way to get to a job. More people working is better for the economy. But you'll have the whingers who'll scream about the disabled getting special assistance from the government and the cost of the service and so on and so forth. And how some people might need to do this each day to get to and from work. I mean, it does say UNLIMITED. So are they/we (I'm legally blind too) going to be able to set schedules to get to and from work regularly? And to those people who whine about this special service for the disabled I say you! You wouldn't be happy no matter what anyway. You'd be complaining that disabled people were staying home and collecting government assistance which comes from you taxes. And you'd whine if there was a way for those same disabled people to be able to go out and WORK for a living. So, I just sit back and laugh at you goombas. Now, the downside obviously is that some disabled folks who are limited to the bus now may switch over to the vans. Not like Wave is swimming in high opinions and ridership now, especially after the last major route change. And will this van system be able to handle the potential amounts of ridership? And what policies/limitations will be put on the van system? Time starting in the morning, time ending in the evening, where someone can be picked up and dropped off and the relation to the bus routes. How UNLIMITED is UNLIMITED? How many vans are ready to be used? Will it be enough? There's potential for disaster, but potential for a decent system to be set up. As to the 24 hour notice, I see the problem some see with it, but for many a 24 hour notification isn't a big problem. I hope those wanting the voucher system don't foul up the potential good that this alternative does and can offer. Andrew