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Friday, June 1, 2012

parta creates stir at Robinson

I may be deaf-blind and physically impaired... I may wear leg
braces and walk with a forearm crutch... It might be hard for
people to imagine, but I try to be as independent as possible.
When it comes to travelling, that means Portage Area Regional
Transportation Authority (PARTA.) The problem is that PARTA just
can't seem to get it right when it comes to meeting my needs.

I've been using PARTA for three years to travel to various
locations around Portage county. I've endured a host of problems
including excessively late pick-ups, return rides that take over
an hour, being dropped off at the wrong doorway, so I can't find
my way around inside and even being taken to the wrong building.
One driver demanded payment from my father, even thought Kent
State students ride to campus for free. Another driver roughly
shoved me into a seat on the bus. The sad truth is that PARTA is
getting worse, not better. What happened on Wednesday illustrates
my point.

I scheduled my ride to "Robinson new wing" for pool therapy. I'm
actually going to Robinson Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation
Center, but PARTA calls it the "new wing." They picked me up on
time. The drive seemed longer than usual. I have no vision at
all. I can't look out the window to see where we are going. I
must put all my trust in the driver. With the way PARTA has been
handling my case, that isn't so easy to do.

The bus stopped. The driver got out. I didn't know where we were
or what was happening. I assumed we were picking up someone
else. The bus started moving. After awhile, we stopped again. The
driver tapped me on the arm to let me know we were at my
destination. He walked me inside. That's when the confusion

I repeat, I had no idea what was happening. We were just
standing there. The driver seemed to be bouncing around nervously
on his feet. At last, someone grabbed my upper body and
practically pushed me into a chair. I knew something was wrong,
and I didn't like the way I was being treated.

My physical therapist, who can sign, later filled me in. The
chairs in the lobby had been removed, and there was no volunteer
on duty. The driver didn't know what to do. It would only take
about five more steps into the hospital to take me to the rehab
center, but PARTA won't do that. The lobby is as far as they will

The driver stepped a passing nurse. She found a chair and dragged
me into it. The nurse then called security, who called the front
desk, who called the rehab center, who called my physical
therapist. House keeping and the safety director were also
brought in on this. I sat like an idiot in my chair while
everyone talked around me. I felt like I was wearing a neon sign
that said "BIG PROBLEM."

As my therapist tried to deal with the mess, she discovered that
PARTA tried to take me to Kent Rehab instead of the hospital.
This time it wasn't just the wrong building but the wrong city.

So much time was wasted that my pool therapy was cut short. I
thought the issue was over. Instead, there were more hospital
people out in the lobby waiting for PARTA to arrive. My
therapist said good-bye four times, only to return again. She did
not like leaving me uninformed about what was going on around me.

My nerves were shot. PARTA arrived late. We then sat for 30
minutes. There were some drop-offs and pick-ups. The hospital is
only 20 minutes away from my home. Yet, I was on that bus for two

I am disabled, and I know my needs are unique. That does not make
me a second-rate citizen of my community. I use paratransit
because I want to be as independent as possible. I use PARTA
because it's the only affordable option in this area. All I want
to do is go to school, or to physical therapy or to my volunteer
job at the Hattie Larlham Foundation. Why does PARTA have to make
everything harder than it should be?

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