Thursday, May 19, 2016

Flexibility on ParaTransit is vital

Here is an example of one of my daily stressors. Small wonder I was just diagnosed with PTSD.

Yesterday I signed up on short notice to volunteer at the ROM. There was an urgent request put out and I thought I could do it. I managed to switch most of my Wheel-Trans bookings and I got put on a wait list to get a bus home at the end of my shift for 9:30 pm.

Little did I know I would wake up this morning and find that the wait list request was removed and I could not get a ride home. The Wheel-Trans schedule showed my last drop off location as being the at the ROM at 6:05 pm. Clearly I had to phone Wheel-Trans to fix up the rides.

For 30 minutes I sat on hold and got to listen to this message on the Wheel-Trans line:

"Thank you for calling Wheel-Trans. We are experiencing a high call volume. Please hold for the next available representative. Your patience is appreciated."
 "Help us help you. Construction season has arrived in Toronto and traffic delays can be expected and traffic delays can be expected. Wherever possible we are asking customers to be ready and waiting for their ride 10 minutes before their ahead of time. This is in case the driver arrives early so he can stay ahead of potential delays."

By the end of 30 minutes I was thinking to myself, sure, I'll help you. Now it's your turn to help me.

I again asked for a bus to pick me up at the ROM at 9:30 pm and take me back to BridgePoint, the Rehab Hospital. No go.

I changed tactics and thought, okay, I'll take the subway over to Broadview, which is a lot closer to the hospital, and then ask for Wheel-Trans to pick me up there at 10:15 pm. Both the St. George and Broadview stations are accessible and within easy wheeling distance, so I thought this was reasonable. No go. The best offering I could get was for 11:30 pm. It wasn't safe or doable.

I then remembered the Dinner Club was meeting at a location two blocks away from the ROM. People with disabilities are dining there and I originally planned to go there. I knew Wheel-Trans would be in there to pick other people up so I gave Wheel-Trans the address of Spring Rolls on 693 Yonge St.and asked if I could be picked up from there at around 7:00 pm. The idea worked. I got a bus.

Unfortunately I can't change any of the other buses though.

If I cancel the bus that leaves BridgePoint at 1:30 pm to go to City Hall for a Right2Housing meeting, another one of my volunteer jobs, I would get a penalty from Wheel-Trans for a short notice cancelation. I have to keep that ride.

If tried to change the bus from City Hall to the ROM and go back to BridgePoint instead. There was nothing in the way of buses. If I cancelled it, took a subway to Spring Rolls and then took the bus home from there, I'd get a penalty again. All I can do is keep my bookings from City Hall to the ROM and Spring Rolls back to BridgePoint.

Yesterday I didn't mind finding out I'd be arriving at the ROM more than 2 hours ahead of my volunteer shift. I figured it opened opportunity. It meant I could attend the staff party, and then work. With the bus scheduling problem, the ability to attend the staff party before working, also failed.

What a wasted, and very disappointing, day. I lose out on Spring Rolls and the Staff Party and volunteer job at the ROM, all because I tried to follow my heart and answer an urgent request for a volunteer.

There's no one to blame. It's just how it is. It makes me hate being disabled. I stupidly never thought of the spillover effect of booking the bus from one location to another either.

I volunteer because I like to work, I need job references, and because of transit barriers like this, I can't be flexible enough to meet the needs of most employers to work at a paying job.

When I once had a full-time job and was fully off ODSP, but after 18 months of employment the employer changed my shift to one that couldn't be accommodated with ParaTransit. It's hard to be forced into poverty.

My 'volunteer employer' at the ROM understood, and there will be no repercussions. It's just sad that she's now stuck unable to cover the shift I had to abandon.

Does society realize how many hoops and stress a person with a disability has to go through just to survive?

Could you take it, if you were stuck in this position?

Would you get frustrated and angry?

Would you push through these types of barriers daily, just to live as normally as possible?

I doubt very many people will. I am very thankful to have the guts, strength and determination to endure, but I did pay a price. The price is called PTSD. My symptoms are dangerously high blood-pressure, sweating, a racing heart, and at times, tears, more like melt-downs.

How much will that cost society when I have to go into treatment?

I am a HUMAN. I too, need to go out, to give, to socialize, and to be part of the fabric of society. LET's lobby together for the barriers to come down.

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