Northwest NEWS

September 27, 1999

Editorial

Seven-hour trip to doctor is excessive; disabled Americans have been forgotten

   I wonder if there are other handicapped Metro Access van riders who have been experiencing the same difficulties with van arrivals as have I lately?

   I am an 82-year-old disabled senior who has, with gratitude, made pretty consistent use of the Metro Access vans with wheelchair lifts. This has enabled me to maintain an active life as a post-stroke volunteer with various organizations, as well as the usual doctor, dentist, and senior center destinations.

   I have become increasingly frustrated over the growing inefficiencies in the operation of the program. I am sure that I am not the only rider whose scheduled pick-up "windows" have been changed, without notice.

   Too often, this results in a "No Show" charge, as well as a forced cancellation of the planned appointment. It may be, however, that I am the only one who enters my appointed "windows" into my computer as they are given to me.

   To use the service, one calls, not more than 7 days, nor less than 24 hours, prior to one's appointment. The rider is given a half-hour "pick-up window," any time during which the van might arrive, and she/he must be ready to be on the van within five minutes of whenever it does arrive. If not, she/he is listed as a "No-Show" and the return trip is also canceled.

   This program is funded under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, the Access sub-contractor seems to have forgotten that many riders are disabled, like myself, and not able to dress without help and dependent on care-givers.

   The "window" used to allow a 15-minute, not 5-minute "ready" time. It also used to operate under a rule that a rider would not be in transit more than one and one-half hours. 1-1/2 hours going, plus 1 hour in the doctor's office, plus 1-1/2 hours going home is a pretty good time stretch for a disabled person to go un-bathroomed!

   A recently-adopted policy makes it mandatory for anyone crossing from one side of Lake Washington to the other, to transfer from the Seattle-area subcontractor's van to the East Side Subcontractor's van (or vice versa) at the South Bellevue Park & Ride lot and cross Lake Washington via I-90. Incidentally, the 520 bridge is not on the "transfer" route.

   This means that someone going from north Woodinville to an appointment near Northwest Hospital, or in Lake City or the University, must add the extra time and miles south to Bellevue, wait for 45 minutes for the transfer van, travel through Seattle traffic from 1-90 to a destination well north of the canal, and reverse that time and mileage home again. One such recent trip required seven hours from home back to home, for a 45-minute doctor's appointment.

   The drivers, the schedulers, and all the service people are wonderful to deal with, kind and considerate. But somewhere in the bureaucracy, the "Disabled American" has been forgotten.

   I can't even charge it to "bottom-line-ocracy," because some decisions are not only stupid, but wasteful of drivers' and riders' time, needless gasoline consumption, and traffic congestion.

   Am I the only rider being afflicted? I should be glad to hear from others with solutions or horror stories. My e-mail address is erwallis@jps.net.

Eleanor R. Wallis, Woodinville