Appalled in Seattle

"Appalled in Seattle" contacts Ragged Edge with this story:

I was reading the blog of our local left-leaning free weekly The Stranger this morning and was shocked to read a post from one of their staff political writers. Erica Barnett was actually calling for banning wheelchairs from bus routes because the extra time necessary to load them was causing her to be late to work.

The Stranger has earned a reputation as a fervent defender of progressive issues, particularly gay rights so it was a surprise and tremendous disappointment to see the posting. I didn't know where else to send this, but I hope you can start spreading the url and put some pressure on The Stranger.

Thank you.

"Should the Handicapped Be Banned From Express Buses?"

I followed the link and found this choice section, which pretty much gets to the heart of Barnett's snit:

I’m just putting this out there: Is it fair for one or two handicapped individuals’ right to public accomodation to trump the right of dozens or hundreds of others to have reliable transit service that gets them to work on time? Is it fair for two people in wheelchairs to make everyone else on the “express” bus late?

The tenor of this complaint is about the same as those of the Cato conservatives whose 1990s attacks against the ADA I wrote about in Make Them Go Away.

Conservatives, liberals, progressives, libertarians... makes no difference: they all yell that "they are hurting us." The same mantra, again and again: "make them go away," they say.

Not much to add to "Appalled in Seattle's" call to put pressure on Ms. Barnett. Readers, please have at it!!

November 10, 2006 | Email this story


Comments (newest comments at bottom)

Action Alert

From Easter Seals/ Project ACTION

Attention Wheelchair Users, Scooter and Other Mobility Device Users: Help Remove Barriers and Improve Access to Public Transit and Paratransit Services

*Do you have experiences to share about using a wheelchair or other mobility device on public transportation?

*Would you like to do something to remove barriers, make rides more comfortable and improve access to public transit and paratransit services?

Your input is needed on a brief survey! Follow the link to complete the survey.

The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete. Survey responses are needed as soon as possible and will be kept confidential. The survey will be available from Nov 1, 2006 to Nov 17, 2006. Wheelchair and scooter users, family members and personal care assistants are all encouraged to complete the survey. Activists are encouraged to respond and forward this alert to interested friends and colleagues.


Easter Seals/Project ACTION is a federally funded research and demonstration program to improve access to public transportation for people with disabilities. This survey is part of a national study entitled, "Status Report on the Current Use of Wheelchairs and Other Mobility Devices on Public and Private Transportation." The study is being conducted by Easter Seals/Project ACTION. The results of the study will be used to identify ways to improve access to public transit and paratransit services, establish procedures for transit agencies, educate service providers and enhance the transportation experience of users.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has greatly expanded the range of mobility options available to people with disabilities, particularly for wheelchair users riding various forms of public and private transportation. With increased ridership by wheelchair users, operational challenges specific to safely transporting wheelchairs and other mobility devices have emerged and need to be resolved. While research has been documented and discussed within a narrow circle of key stakeholders, Easter Seals/ Project ACTION has determined there is significant need to share existing information and best practices and to enable this information to be developed into policies and procedures that can be readily adapted by transit agencies and other stakeholders.

RL Grubbs
Research Scientist
Georgia Institute of Technology/ Wheeled Mobility RERC
Principal Investigator for Project ACTION
Tel: 404-894-4960

Posted by: RL Grubbs on November 10, 2006 11:21 AM

If you search through this publication for disability-related issues you will find other articles and "letters to the editor" that are extremely cruel and crass. Is this really the true voice of the American Left? Some publications and commentators give the impression that both the left and the right have fallen into the gutter; but, believe me, the disabled are not the only group of people that are disillusioned with both.

Posted by: Catherine on November 10, 2006 04:05 PM

You know what really ruins the overall experience of living in modern urban environs? It's the nerveballs like Erica Barnett who think that getting to work on time trumps the pleasant experience of grooving with one another and acknowledging that we're truly all members of one another.

After all, if Rosa Parks had just got on with the program and moved to the rear of the bus, there wouldn't have been any problem for those who were willing to go with the flow and if those outside agitators hadn't invaded the "whites only" waiting rooms...


Posted by: William Loughborough on November 10, 2006 11:16 PM

I wonder. Would the writer also complain about the time it takes for the ambulatory riders to get on and off? Maybe THEY made her late to work. If she's going to pick on people, is she also going to pick on someone with a bad leg or a senior who walks slowly? Or maybe she left too late or shouldn't cut her commute so close. If she is that concerned, she should take a taxi.It isn't a shared ride. Or telecommute. We're here. We're part of the public. Get used to us!

Posted by: Jean Ryan on November 12, 2006 09:00 PM

I think the solution lies in coming up with a more workable way to whisk people with mobility impairments on and off the buses quickly and safely. Of course this sounds simpler than it is, but I think it's the best answer. I really resent the fact that we can put robots on Mars but we can't come up with cheap and efficient ways to lift people a couple of feet up or to lower the them down into a bathtub.

Whereas one commenter suggested that perhaps the drivers' incompetence and/or recalcitrance might be the problem, that is more complicated, long-term, and unlikely a problem for which a solution may be accomplished anytime soon. But, it's worth looking at.

Some bus stops in Baltimore consist of a 20-foot or so long raised concrete block, made up of a switchback ramp and a platform up at the bus floor level. The bus stops and extends a flat platform out to the ramp's top platform. These probably have drawbacks too - many wheelchair users can't do ramps alone, and I don't like the idea of the driver being obliged to come out and push them up, even though drivers often assist ambulatory people up the steps if they need it; ramps with snow and ice on them are dangerous for everybody. So the ramps are less efficient than the lifts but take less time to load people on and off the buses; perhaps that might be a step toward a compromise for both sides in some locations, say, only for express buses.

Gilles Malkine
Action Toward Independence, Inc.

Posted by: Gilles Malkine on November 14, 2006 11:39 AM

Low-floor buses kneel to around 10 inches above street level and then flip out a ramp in less than 20 seconds. When the bus is next to a six inch curb, it's almost level and a breeze to board. The worst case is when snow blocks the terrace and the bus is on the road crown -- I've had drivers spot me as I backed my RWD chair up the steep grade.

Anyway, low-floor buses are the wave of the future, as they make it faster for everyone to board.

When the ambulatory riders cooperate by vacating the securement position (some even know how to raise the seat!), I can board, the driver can do four-point securements, and we can be underway in 1:40. That's one-and-a-half stoplights.

Posted by: Jesse the K on November 16, 2006 12:36 AM

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