I am writing about a friend of mine who shall go nameless. He is in a wheelchair, on a fixed income, and doesn’t go out very much because of circumstances I won’t go into. As a result, the man is frustrated because many times he wants to go out with his friends, but can’t.
I invited my friend out with us to have dinner at one of his most favorite restaurants and, of course, he sincerely wanted to go. The problem is, as is the case with many people in his situation, he can’t find an accessible and affordable ride to and from the restaurant. I tried every means at my disposal to help him. Yesterday, I found a company who provides transportation. I called the owner and told her the situation about my friend. She asked if he could transfer his body into a regular car, and I said he could. In fact, it probably would be easier for him to do that because he can move his legs better than other people in wheelchairs who need an accessible van.
I thought I was having a great conversation with the owner of this transportation company. She was very sympathetic about my friend, and wanted to take him to the restaurant. I gave her his address and the name of the restaurant, and then she quoted her price.
As I said, my friend is on a fixed income. He doesn’t work, and makes just enough money to survive. Despite his limited finances, the owner of the transportation company wanted to charge him $80 for the ride to and from the restaurant. I realize that the restaurant is 15 miles away, but I don’t think that fully excuses the company. I can get to this same restaurant for $15, and I don’t live too far from my friend.
For the record, I want to point out that this particular transportation provider is not the only company that charges these outrageous prices. There are numerous providers who have no problem telling a person with a physical disability it will cost them close to $100 of their limited monthly income in order to meet a social need. In other words, it’s simple: pay the $80 or stay home. What if we all had those limited choices? Could we survive socially?
I don’t know how these transportation providers can sleep well at night, knowing what they charge people with disabilities who struggle to make ends meet every month. After all, we pay rent, buy groceries, pay the utility bills, pay medical co-payments, etc.
I’ve had numerous discussions with people over the years about this subject. I know all about insurance costs, operating costs, labor, and the like. Even though, as a businessman, I understand and respect everything that companies have to go through to be successful at what they do, I find it an injustice when a person with limitations, who wants to do the same things that the rest of us do, has to pay an outrageous amount of money that he doesn’t even have in order to keep up.
Some of you may be asking about his family. Well, if he can’t force his family to provide him with rides, then I can’t comment or make that argument. Therefore, he, like everyone else in his situation, has to live with this terrible injustice. I am tempted to ask a transportation provider what would happen if he had a loved one in a wheelchair who couldn’t get out that easily, and then had salt rubbed in their wounds by being told he had to spend $80 to go out, and that doesn’t even include his dinner.
I know that these transportation companies are private entities, and therefore, by definition, they can do what they want to do in order to compete with each other. Again, why does this all have to be at the expense of someone who not only has a limited income, but is physically limited? I honestly don’t get it, unless someone tries to justify it. I know about the SRTA Bus Demand Response. I use it myself. However, the bus does not run in the evenings and on holidays.