It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chicago Airport Endangers the Lives of People with Mobility Impairments (and "L" Staff)

photo copyright

I wish I had been able to write this post the day I came back from AYS. I wish I hadn't pulled an all nighter the night before. I wish I hadn't been on Zoloft and falling asleep in the blink of an eye (literaly). Because then I could have taken care of this with all the raw emotion I had Tuesday morning that just got drained out of me. I haven't called and screamed and yelled at anyone yet, and that is wrong. That, and well, this post is going to be kind of dry now w/o all that emotion.

I have a history of taking trains from Penn in Balto to Union in DC or vice versa and just missing my train by 5-10mins & having to wait an hr or so for the next one, such as by just barely making the bus from school to Penn and not accounting that my need to use the lift makes things take longer. Should get to that bus earlier... So I guess it's not all that much of a surprise that I just barely missed my plane home to Balto from Chicago. Except that in this case I should have just barely made it. Yes I was running late as usual, but I took the bus to the train station, hopped on the train to Midway and still did manage to make it to the train station there with an hr to go before my flight. I already printed my boarding pass, had no luggage to check, just up the elevator, over the bridge to the airport, through security to get frisked w/o waiting on any line (that's what they do when you travel in a powerchair) and ZOOM over to the gate at warp speed continuously checking my watch. Midway isn't all that big. It can be done. If only it had been that easy.

Instead I zoomed out of the train station nervously looking at my watch, went through those doors above, went over to that elevator you can kind of see in the left of the photo, and it was OUT OF ORDER. Zoom back into the train station and over to a (transit?) cop. "How do I get to the airport? The elevator's broken." (He was about to point me in the dirrection of said broken elevator) Oh... "I'm about to miss my flight."

What happened next is that he called someone from the company the airport contracts with to push wheelchairs through the airport (only I didn't know that's who he called) and tried to explain to them that no, I didn't need a wheelchair, I had my own wheelchair, but...

What they did was send someone out to push my chair. You can't push my powerchair, and there is no safe accessible way to wheel from the train station to the airport w/o going up the elevator. So she radioed over. No, I don't need a chair. I have a "scooter" (that bugs me. It's not a scooter, there's a BIG difference and I'm very proud of my chair). What do you think they did? They sent over a male pusher dude. Man or woman, it doesn't matter. You still can't push my chair, and there still isn't an accessible way to go. We stand there staring at each other. They send a supervisor over. We stand there staring at each other some more. Turns out they won't do anything (not that they can do anything anyway) it's against their policy to do anything outside of the airport. The CTA staff should take care of it, they say. It's their elevator. So we go back into the train station to the CTA staff.

If you look at the picture above you will see that the elevator in question is just right outside the door to the train station, just barely, and not technically inside of the airport either. It's attached to a bridge that is attached to the airport. So who owns the bridge? CTA or the airport? I never did find out.

What happened was that a CTA staff member finally got so disgusted that I obviously was missing my flight at this point that she decided to escort me around the airport IN THE STREET b/c there was no accessible way to go. We could have gotten hit by a car. When I finally got into the airport I'd missed my flight by 10-15mins. I went to the Southwest ticket counter and promptly got put on the next flight, and after 10 exhausting hrs, a bus, train, plane, then another train & another bus later I did get home only to collapse on my new bed in my apt.

But what I want to know is why no one knows who the hell is in charge of this elevator??? When I was finally at the Gate I went up to someone working there, "I don't know if you can help me, but..." She made a call. It turns out there's a discrepancy as to whether CTA or the airport owns that elevator. Didn't get me far, but I didn't think it would. I got 2 telephone numbers I just haven't had a chance to call due to drug induced exhaustion. If I hadn't already been exhausted by the time I'd gotten into the airport from pulling that all nighter, I would have demanded to speak to someone from the airport. As far as I got was that it is totally out of the jurisdiction of the wheelchair people. Then I was just so fed up and hungry I gave up and got some food. I had some phone numbers after all.

What I learned from ADAPT & AYS is to always have a very well thought out plan A... and a plan B, C, & D. Where is the plan B here? The CTA employee that escorted me said that elevator goes out ALL THE TIME. This is a major metropoliton airport. Hasn't anyone heard of terriorism, fires, and bombs? What's all this security about? Near the trains is an easier area to cause havoc. So what happens then? What happens during a time when our national security is at stake? Are crips just not worth saving? Do we not deserve a well thought out plan? There should be a WELL THOUGHT OUT emergency plan and the CTA staff, airport people, and even the wheelchair people should all know what it is. This really makes you feel great about homeland security, doesn't it? Maybe a chair user should just roll through the street and get hit by a car? That'd make good press. Then there'd be a plan B. But why should we have to wait?

**UPDATE: N had a flight home from Midway on Tues several hrs after I did. I'm happy to report that the elevator worked fine for her. So obviously someone knows who's in charge of it...**


Scott Nance said...

Sadly, this is NOT a surprise.
Getting on a plane, getting off a plane, getting through an airport are not at all safe for people who use mobility aides and can be quite hazardous, even in the simplest of tasks. What is really aggravating is not knowing who to complain to or offer solutions to, or scream at. Chicago has an antiquated system for public transportation and while it is true trains have jumped tracks and staff as well as riders neglect the means of transportation, this is not an excuse and someone should be held accountable. The city of Boston is similar: they embrace their large curbs with no curb cuts, applaud their rickety brick sidewalks and cheer for the completely inaccessible stops along major train stops, not to mention "less important" stops. I've heard citizens say they prefer their old ways to new or improved ways. I say baloney. The trains weren't there in 1776. Cars weren't there in 1820. It is an excuse as were ALL of the things ALL members of Midway and the CTA said and did. NOT KNOWING is NOT an excuse! The entire Midway station and airport manager are accountable and detailed complaints directly to these individuals may begin a process of education and accountability. Unfortunately, when you're living life and trying to catch a freaking plane, there is no time to stop and take names. Grrr...

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