This past weekend, I traveled to Florida with my parents for my boyfriend’s brother’s wedding. As is my mother’s usual style, our flight was booked well in advance, as was our source of transportation for the weekend: a wheelchair accessible rental van. When we left on Friday morning, we figured we had everything set for a fully accessible and enjoyable weekend. All was going swimmingly until we arrived in Florida to an apologetic voice mail from the man who was supposed to be driving our rental van to us, explaining that he was stuck waiting for roadside assistance for a flat tire. Of course, things happen, and the incident was entirely not the driver’s fault. However, while I was waiting in the airport for three hours for the van to show up, it occurred to me in the midst of my frustration that I was literally stuck at the airport.
We rented the van from what I’m pretty sure is one of the only, if not the only place in the entire state of Florida that provides accessible vehicle rentals. Both my mother and I use wheelchairs, and the rental van was our only option to get around. Though I had my manual wheelchair, my mother brought her power wheelchair that cannot be folded, precluding us from even thinking about trying to hail a taxi. Neither of us can climb onto a bus or a shuttle, and the hotel was much too far away to even think of walking and rolling there. No matter how much we tried to brainstorm, we realized there were simply no other means of accessible transportation for us to get from the airport to our hotel. In the end, my parents and I were completely frazzled and over an hour and a half late to the rehearsal dinner.
Now, in the scheme of life, I realize that this flat tire incident is nothing serious compared to the myriad other things that could have gone wrong. And on the whole, the weekend was fantastic and the wedding was beyond beautiful. But the tire debacle raises an important issue about the major lack of accessible transportation options available to disabled people. Accessible taxis and buses are generally about as common as a leprechaun riding a unicorn, and the vast majority of private transportation companies do not offer any accessible services. There is no reason only a few companies should have a monopoly on providing accessible vehicles. This causes vehicle rental rates for disabled people to be sky high – up to more than twice the cost of renting a non-adaptive vehicle – which is tough for a population that already faces tons of extra expenses. It is unfair that no matter where I go, my options for transportation are so significantly limited because of my disability. The fact that accessible means of transportation are so hard to come by seems to strongly imply that disabled people are still perceived as shut-ins who simply don’t need convenient ways to get anywhere because they must rarely leave their houses. But, it’s the 21st century, and disability doesn’t make people home-bound lepers. Considering that the Americans with Disabilities Act has been in effect for just over 23 years, I’d say its more than time for America’s transportation services to get it together and provide equal access for everyone.
Do you have a story about an accessible transportation mishap? Or perhaps a story about successful accessible transportation experiences? I’d love for you to share them!