Transportation while disabled

On Thursday last week, we planned to visit with my sister and her family. The plan was for them to come to our hotel for lunch and hangout time. However, that morning my sister texted me that she didn’t want her kids (5 and 3) to miss school. She asked if we could meet near her instead.

We settled on meeting at a park near their house that has accessible restrooms since their house isn’t accessible. The only problem was that since it was a last minute decision, we hadn’t made a taxi reservation. The local taxi company wants at least 24 hours notice for wheelchair accessible rides. And we definitely needed a taxi with a ramp and a trunk. Brad had his power chair, and I was renting a Whill portable power wheelchair that comes apart into 4 pieces and goes in the trunk.

We decided to try UberWAV which stands for wheelchair accessible vehicle. They advertise short wait times for rides, so we figured we’d give it a shot.

But we soon figured out that the way that UberWAV keeps their wait times low is if you aren’t matched with a driver for 10 minutes, they cancel your ride. So we tried that twice to no avail.

Next we tried calling the taxi company. They had an automated system, and it kept telling us that our hotel was at the airport and we needed to go to the taxi stand at the airport! Eventually I talked with a real person and told them I needed a wheelchair van. They said it’d be a 20 minute wait.

Sooner than the 20 minutes, a taxi pulls up! We were very excited, thinking we were extremely lucky! The only problem? It didn’t have a ramp! That’s right, they sent us a regular van!

When we explained to the driver that my wheelchair came apart and went in the trunk, he asked if we could leave Brad’s wheelchair behind and just take mine! We replied that wasn’t possible.

Luckily he had the phone number of an accessible van driver in his phone, so he made a few calls and contacted him. He said he’d be there in 20 minutes.

40 minutes later, he showed up to pick us up! It only took us 1.5 hours to get a ride.

Luckily he was a very nice driver and even lifted all the parts of my wheelchair into the trunk.

It was an uneventful ride to the park, and when we arrived, he got my chair out of the trunk and helped me put it together. He was great.

We had a great time visiting with my sister and her daughters! They were super sweet kids, and we had a lot of fun watching them play on the playground.

After a while, they needed to go home. Since home was a 15 min walk away, Brad used the accessible restroom in the park one last time and then we walked over there.

I was SO glad I had rented the power wheelchair for myself!!! Otherwise I could not have made the walk. It was 15 minutes at a very fast walking speed (my sister is a runner and very much in shape and the girls were in a stroller), so without the chair I would have been stuck at the park.

We had never seen my sister’s house before, and it was great. They have a wonderful yard with a play area set up in their garage. We laughed and talked and played with the girls for a while. They were so good with Alice and Hestia that I let them hold Alice! She is easier to hold and doesn’t mind being held. Hestia tries to get away a lot when other people hold her. I think each girl held Alice three times!

Alice and Hestia were awesome with the girls. They accepted their strange pats on the head, Alice was great at being held, and overall I couldn’t have been happier with how the visit went!

The taxi driver on the way out told us that it’d probably take 30 min for the taxi company to dispatch a taxi to us on the way back. Since he was based in Long Beach, he couldn’t pick up in the area we were in. So 30 min before we wanted to leave, we called the taxi company to ask for a ride.

30 minutes later they texted us and asked if we still wanted the ride. We said yes. 30 min later, another text and we said yes. 10 min after that, we called and they said they were still trying to find a van for us. So we tried UberWAV. Luckily we were immediately matched with a driver!

However we have heard that sometimes UberWAV vehicles don’t actually have a ramp and van that can hold Brad’s chair. So I called the driver to verify. He did have an appropriate vehicle, but he was dropping his previous client off at the hospital and didn’t know when he’d be able to leave. He was 30 min driving time away from us, but couldn’t leave for another 10 minutes waiting to drop off his previous fare.

So we waited, and waited, and waited. Finally he arrived!

Due to all the waiting, we were now stuck in rush hour traffic and it took an hour to get back to the hotel. But at least we got there!

The moral of the story is if you use a wheelchair and need an accessible ride, forget about rides on demand. You need to plan on either reserving with the taxi company days in advance or else waiting hours for UberWAV. And this is even for enormous cities! It may be much worse for mid-sized or smaller cities, which may only have one vehicle in the fleet that works, and the driver is only available part of the time.

We did get the original taxi guy’s card so for the rest of our trip we were able to schedule rides directly with him since he was so nice.

Brad wants to add that our story is not unique or surprising to wheelchair users who communicate with each other on social media. These stories are unfortunately the norm. We hope other wheelchair users will be spared from high expectations by hearing about our story as one of many.

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