We don't know the Atlanta airport at all. Thus we ended up stumbling around a bit trying to find our way. We wanted to get to the car and get going because we had a long drive ahead of us. Finally we were pointed in the right direction and found ourselves the first in line for an inaccessible bus that was heading to the rental car centre. We asked the driver about accessibility and he told us to just wait for a second and he sprinted off coming back with a very friendly and helpful woman.
She told us that she had called for one of the accessible buses and that it would be there in about five minutes. She explained that the older buses were not accessible but the new ones were. I was skeptical, not having much luck with buses in the past. But sure enough it showed up and pulled over to the curb. The driver opened the door, asked us to stay back, and then she engaged the ramp which folded down enabling us to board. This was all still theoretical to me because I was wary of the turning space and then the ability to maneuver my chair into it's assigned space.
They offered to help me up and respected me when I said that I wanted to do it on my own. With the folded out ramp continuing to a ramp inside, there were two differing slopes, the first grade was easy the second much harder. I gave the chair a strong push going up the steeper grade and felt it tip back slightly, felt the anti-tip bars engage and in a second I was under control again. I made the turn in, rolled down to my seat and backed in without a problem.
It was great.
My first good experience on a bus as a wheelchair user.
Here's the interesting part and I hoped you kept reading because this post isn't really about that entry onto the bus, it's about getting off the bus. We arrived and the ramp was engaged and I easily slipped into place and got off the bus. There was a crowd of people there waiting to board. The driver asked them to wait and then hopped into the bus and pushed whatever button that causes the ramp to disengage and turn back into a step.
While she was doing this and the ramp was moving she couldn't hear the non disabled people, all with their luggage on wheels calling for her to leave the ramp down. One man, a tired looking, sweaty from travel, businessman was almost frantic. He wanted the ramp down. But it was put away and people were getting on, all having to lift luggage of some kind. He got to the door and said, nicely, that he could have used the ramp.
Others around agreed.
He looked at me and said, "You guys fought for this, but everyone can benefit, so thanks."
That was the first time that a non disabled person has ever even hinted at an understanding that, first, we fought for access, and second, that access is universal.
I'm still in a bit of shock from the remark, and don't really know what to make of it.
But then, sometimes I think it's okay to just enjoy the moment.
So, that's what I'm doing, here in the hotel, hours later.
I'm kind of in shock just reading your story of the man and what he said to you! Nice to encounter (even if only virtually, in my case) a non-disabled person who recognizes that accessibility isn't something that just magically materialized one day on its own!
I've thought myself on occasion about curb cuts as I watch parents pushing baby carriages use them without missing a step. No more bouncing the baby in the carriage to go down a curb and then struggling up against gravity on the other side. As it happens in my small town when ADA took effect, there was a man who used a WC on the implementation group, and he was very effective at helping 'get it right', even inspiring one of the charitable groups in town to purchase a beach buggy WC so the beach was accessible to the water line! He helped get the town started on the right path. Then the community seemed to 'get it' enough in the public spaces. Small store interiors...well, not so much.
And being 'on the road' at the moment, I can see the appeal of that ramp for the rental car area!
Just yesterday I was on the bus home from work when a family with a stroller got on board. Said bus is accessible (as far as I can tell - certainly the intent! - with a space at the front that would otherwise have had seats left open for chair users and a wide-ish aisle) and from the size of said stroller I was rather glad the bus was designed that way or they'd never have gotten it aboard.
Accessibility is good for us all, especially when I get to admire somebody's five-week-old baby. He was absolutely precious. :)
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