Meg Casey
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"Most Able Disabled"

Meg Casey's handicapped issues column

Solitary is corrosive to health

Transportation for the housebound

Meg Casey
March 22 1983

Dear Meg,

I am a widow on a fixed income, confined to a wheelchair, who lives alone. Since Milford does not have a lift on any of its buses, how can I get transportation so that I can get out of the house and function like any other human being? I feel the need to participate in activities offered to other people. They are denied to me because I cannot get to them. There must be some way that I can be helped. People in wheelchairs who cannot get out of the house can get very lonely. Meg, I'm counting on you to help.

Dear Housebound Citizen:

You have hit upon what may well prove to be a very hot issue. The topic of transportation for the "disabled" public has been coming to a slow boil while sitting on the back burner in Milford, and as always when heat is applied sooner or later something is going to burn - even stew.

It is correct that Milford doesn't have any lifts on its new buses. Is also correct under regulation 504 (the equal access legislation) all transit systems must comply with the guidelines of equal access for disabled citizens on all pieces of equipment purchased after a certain date (which means all of the new buses the Milford Transit District ordered) Unless they provide an alternative means of transportation running a comparatively rated system of service for lift dependent riders as would be gotten through the regular transit system were it lift equipped.

The Milford Transit System, managed to fit itself into that latter category by claiming that especially equipped van had been procured for this purpose. One had.

The new van was named the Sunshine Care–A–Van Express and it has been in operation for some time. However, information about the use of the van seems to have become confused. Many disabled people in town like yourself, are unaware that this is their vehicle to use. Physically disabled people of any age requiring lift equipment to be transported have the right to use it. The base of operations is at the Senior Citizen Center, but is not intended to be mistaken as being a service strictly for the elderly disabled.

To use it just call the Senior Citizens Center. There is a 24 hour advance reservation required and the system works with medical priority over social trips. There's a limit to only two social trips per person per month. This service is curb to curb. If assistance is needed in getting to and from buildings a helper may ride along free of charge. The fees are strictly donations, not mandatory. $3 return trip within city limits, $5 round trip out of town.

A prioritized system is not adequate I realize, but in this era of the two car family, Milford only has one van to service the city’s disabled and conflicting demands are constantly vying for its use. Is unfair for a person to be made to feel guilty for needing to get about to escape loneliness because a medical shuttle might be needed to take someone else to treatments. Both are very important needs, especially to the people concerned. Loneliness is no light matter. Solitary confinement can be as corrosive to the physical and mental health as any terminal disease. - (Besides the fact that everything not medically related falls under the benign umbrellas of a "social trip." - work, food shopping, classes, seeing your lawyer, etc.)

To enable accurate records to be kept as to the frequency and type of an type of trips being denied, the Milford Transit Department requests you call the office as soon as there is a problem obtaining a ride. Compilation of this information will give "proof of need" for additional service. Well if proof is required, let's give it to them. But we can't help unless we know.

Milford Polished-Marble
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originally published 1982 to 1985 in the Milford Citizen newspaper
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