In the past year, I experienced losing vision in both of my eyes temporarily for months for acute retinal detachments. I continue to experience issues due to my low vision. Walking or running are still some of my favorite activities, but I’ve injured myself a number of times (broken wrist, broken arm, orbital socket, etc.) due to crummy sidewalks and roads in Seattle.
While my vision has mostly returned, accessibility tools on my desktop and phones still help me accomplish tasks that I used to complete in a flash. If my vision had not returned to the current levels, getting to depositions, meetings, and site visits would require even more planning than what I now need post retinal detachments.
Will you please take the Week Without Driving challenge? Before you hit click away know that this does NOT require you to give up driving!
The challenge is to make you ask:
- What if you couldn’t drive?
- What if taking the bus, riding a bike, walking or asking for rides weren’t a choice you could make, but a necessity?
- What would it be like getting around without driving yourself?
For people who can drive, and can afford a car, these questions aren’t ever an issue. But for nearly a quarter of the people in our state – people with disabilities, young people, seniors and people who can’t afford cars or gas, this is their every day.
I’m also asking our elected leaders and those running for office to join in this WWD Challenge too. The decisions our leaders and each of us make regarding transportation planning, policies and funding impact all of us. IT’S OK IF WE NEED TO DRIVE! This is part of the point of this challenge! We want everyone to understand what ~20% of Washingtonians must struggle with every day when it comes to basic transportation needs.
This is an opportunity to learn. That’s why my friends at Disability Mobility Initiative at Disability Rights Washington would like to invite WSAJ members to participate in the Week Without Driving this September 19-25.
Below are the stories of David, Katie, and Miguel, who live in southwest Washington.
“[We] had the hundred-and-fifteen-degree weather. I do not have air conditioning; most people who live in low-income housing in Vancouver do not have air conditioning. And so, I was told I should go to a Cooling Center. But it was on a Sunday and C-TRAN does not have some buses running on Sundays. So, a lot of people like me who depend on public transportation had no way to get to a Cooling Center.”
David lives in unincorporated Hazel Dell just north of the city of Vancouver. David identifies as Deaf Plus, meaning he is a member of the ASL Deaf Community and has an additional ambulatory disability, which is not always visible. David mainly gets around by walking or by taking the bus. He recently graduated from Gallaudet University with his master’s degree in social work.
One big barrier for David is not being able to afford a car to get jobs that require one. In order to get and keep a job, David needs accessible transportation. With a car, he could obtain a job, volunteer more, and socialize. Some Deaf events are late at night on weekends, and he would have no way home, so he is unable to socialize as much as he’d like. David believes there should be no transit fares, and that funds taxpayers put into the system should be enough. If riders show an honored citizen card, David thinks that should suffice for payment. David knows fares are a financial barrier for many people, so they stay home instead. He also thinks it is important to have covered shelters near grocery stores and apartment buildings on bus routes. There are no seated stops between David’s home and the transit center, which can make it very hard to keep groceries out of the rain when you are already tired of walking and standing and have no covered shelter for miles. Another barrier for the Deaf Community is when a bus driver makes verbal announcements. With background noises, he cannot always hear what is said. He has seen Deaf people visibly upset when they cannot get off at their stop due to a detour they were not informed about. David believes that any verbal announcements by the driver to all passengers needs to also be translated into text in the vehicle for things such as unplanned route changes. David would like the state to create and fund a free driving program for people who are Deaf to be trained professionally by local driving schools, and provide nonprofits grants to help Deaf and disabled low-income people ability to buy and maintain a used car.
“It is important that I have a job so I can be a little independent and be a part of the community.”
Katie lives in La Center with her family. She has a job in Vancouver and isn’t able to drive or to take the fixed route commuter bus that goes from La Center to the Vancouver Transit Center. Because of her disability, it’s not safe for her to wait alone at the transit center, so she needs something that provides door-to-door service. Unfortunately, La Center is outside of the area where C-Tran, the local paratransit provider, offers service. Katie has been getting rides from her caregiver to her job, but that caregiver is leaving, and her family hasn’t been able to find a replacement. The disability services that Katie receives allow the caregiver to be reimbursed mileage for driving Katie to and from work, but not for the caregiver’s time, which makes finding someone more difficult. Katie looked for work in La Center, but there weren’t a lot of office-type businesses there that would be a good match for her skills, and so the only job she found, after a couple of years of searching, was in Vancouver. Katie really doesn’t want to give up the job — she loves being able to earn money and afford things that she wants. She wishes there was paratransit or another shared shuttle service that she could use to get to work.
“When you are transit dependent, you can’t really just plan things as you go. You can’t just do things on a whim or have an emergency. You have to plan everything ahead of time and you don’t have much flexibility to do basic things like going to the store.”
Miguel is a Blind college student, and lives in Vancouver. He gets around by taking Lyft, Uber, fixed-route buses and paratransit. He commutes from Vancouver to Portland Community College, which takes him an hour and a half each way. Not being able to drive impacts Miguel’s entire life. His biggest barrier is not being able to schedule the paratransit ride in the same day period. Miguel would like to see improvements in the transportation system so that he does not have to spend most of his day commuting.
Will you join us and take the challenge? Sign up at weekwithoutdriving.life
As you’ll hear from elected leaders who joined us last year in this video, They found the experience incredibly valuable and are encouraging other elected leaders, like you, to join us this year.
How Does the Week Without Driving Work?
You can get around however you want, but you can’t drive yourself in any car. This applies to all your activities — not just your work commute. And if you normally transport other family members or friends, it applies to those trips too.
This isn’t a disability simulation or a test of how easily you can find alternatives. We know that it is far easier to give up your keys if you can afford to live in a walkable area well served by transit or can outsource your driving and other transport and delivery needs to other people. Instead, we intend this as a learning experience to inform the decisions you, as an elected leader or policymaker, will make about land use, climate, health equity and transportation access and funding. We want you to have this experience so you can start to understand the barriers non-drivers experience in accessing your (and our) communities.
If you decide to, you can ask someone else to drive you, but make a note of how much you “owe” this person in their time, and if you felt obligated to support them in other ways (ie, doing all the dishes). If it’s a staff person, make a note of how much you pay them for this time. You can use ride-hail or taxis, but make a note of how much it costs you.
During the week, we’ll ask you to share your experience on social media. At the end of the week, we’ll ask you to reflect on and share what you learned from participating in the Week Without Driving.
If you have questions, contact me or Anna Zivarts, director of the Disability Mobility Initiative.
BTW: I’ve invited April Berg, Noel Frame, among others to join us in this Week Without Driving Challenge too! Please forward and invite as many people as you can. Thank you!
Note: Most of this content was provided by Disability Mobility Initiative via Kimberly Kinchen and Anna Zivarts. 💚💚💚