I have been riding public transportation for about 8 years now. For the most part, this has been a really easy process. All buses, and a large portion of the train stations are physically accessible for people with disabilities. The only issue I have is that the policy requiring tie downs is applied inconsistently. Tie downs are essentially clips or straps that anchor my wheelchair to the bus. When I board a bus, the driver has to strap me down, because the mechanism is out of my reach. This leads me to be nervous whenever I am about to get on a bus.
The first reason I don’t like getting tied down, is because it makes me feel like I am not in control of my body. For someone who uses a wheelchair or other mobility device, that mobility device (be it a walker, crutches, or wheelchair), is considered part of their body. Tie downs are similar to able-bodied people getting shackled to the base of their seats. In an emergency, I would not be able to free myself!
The next reason that this bugs me is that it’s not applied across the board. Only one public transportation company in the Chicago area requires tie downs on all wheelchairs. The other two don’t require it – in fact, one of those two doesn’t even have any type of tie down! The one company that requires them does it even thought it makes me nervous.
The final reason it bugs me is that it slows down the service of the bus I happen to be on. It takes the driver at least 5 minutes on each end of my trip to tie me down, and then to untie me (when the driver puts them in places I can’t reach). Not only does it inconvenience everyone else who happens to be riding the bus, it also puts me in an embarrassing spotlight.
For these reasons, I think that the policy of tie downs should be looked at. The Chicagoland public transportation system is reputably the best public transportation in the United States for people with disabilities. I believe that making this one policy more uniform would make the system very much better.