We have three vehicles in our transportation fleet: a van with a wheelchair ramp, a sedan, and a bus with a wheelchair lift. I’ve ridden in all of them but it’s usually the van when I go to the doctor or therapy. But one of our drivers isn’t strong enough to push a chair up the ramp or pick up a chair to put it in the trunk of the car, so when she’s driving, it has to be the bus.
But now I’m afraid of it.
Twice now I’ve had problems with my chair and the lift. The first time my brakes got screwed up when they tangled up somehow in some of the bolted connections next to the lift inside the bus. I’m still not completely sure how that all happened, and it caused me considerable stress as the brakes went wonky.
Last week, though, a second scarier problem happened. I got into the bus just fine, all strapped and hooked up and tied down. When we got to the grocery store the lift started acting up. Two metal plates at the top were not quite aligned properly and there was a loud beeping with a flashing orange light right next to me. I roll onto the lift and lock my brakes, with a safety belt across my body because the lift tilts forward just a little bit. It’s never been a problem until this week.
The lift went down but it was moving so slowly that it was hard to tell. When it eventually got to the ground, the front flap folded down as usual and I unlocked the safety belt and my wheels to roll off. Except once I started that, the flap went back UP for no apparent reason, in the middle of my chair so my wheels were spinning without touching anything secure. The chair pitched forward and I was sure that I was going to fall out of it, flat on my face.
One of my fellow grocery shoppers from Meadow Lake helped me get my right leg out and on the ground. I then got the other leg down myself so I felt braced and able to walk the chair forward until it was stable. The flap went down again in the process. I was very unsettled and rocky, and I did NOT want to get back on the bus to come home. But I had no other choice.
It could have been so much worse. I have good reflexes and am aware all the time of where I am when I’m in the chair. Someone older and more frail could easily have fallen forward, hitting the concrete sidewalk and cracked open a head or broken an arm, or at the very least torn their skin.
We need our transportation to be above all safe and dependable. I rely on it. Many of us do. I wrote to the Executive Director so there is a formal record of the incident with a request to purchase a new bus. We have new owners so hey, it’s possible.
I don’t want to get on that bus again until it’s been thoroughly inspected and repaired. Even then I’m not sure I want to get on it, though depending on who’s driving, I may not have choice.