Using the bus for the first time in a wheelchair


I didn’t ride a bus regularly until I finally got frustrated with traffic in Hawaii and decided to give it a try. The day I realized it was taking me 50 minutes to drive six miles and that my wheelchair could go faster than that was the day I decided to ship my truck to the mainland US and at least get some reading done on the bus while stuck in traffic.

Fortunately, the bus system in Hawaii is pretty good so I was confident I could make it work. However, that didn’t make it any less nerve wracking the first time I tried it.

Shortly after I put the truck on the boat, I had a tennis tournament on the weekend and that Saturday morning was my first adventure on the bus. I wondered – How did the ramp work? Would the driver hear me when I need to get off the bus? Will my chair fit? Where do I even catch the bus?

The first step was the most frustrating (at the time) and I can see how most people are immediately turned off to using the bus. The route maps are all separate and no one bus ever seems to go exactly where you want it to go. So I spent at least a couple hours trying to open up maps online and figure out which bus to get where. Finally I decided to look for the easiest, but not necessarily the fastest route. After all, I could figure out the maps later. This time I just needed to get where I needed to go. If I left early enough, it really wouldn’t matter. Of course now I find Google Transit to be incredibly useful.

Fortunately, Saturday morning was a good time to try this all out since few people were up and about at the time I needed to get on board.

I got out to the stop at least 20 minutes before I needed to and sat there waiting. Finally I saw the “A” bus coming down the road. With $2 in hand, I prepared to board. The driver saw me and immediately signaled something to the people on board. I saw a few people get up from the front seating area and move to different seats. The driver opened the door, lowered the ramp, and said “Hello.” I rolled on and with all the faces and eyes on me, I followed the driver down the aisle. He flipped up a few seats and I turned around and backed into the space.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

I told him where as he started to strap in my chair.

He returned to his seat and started driving.

That was it.

It was around this time that I realized that the things I was doing with my chair were not groundbreaking. People in chairs had done them before. It was just new to me. The bus drivers were trained to handle wheelchair riders. I didn’t have to tell the driver anything new.

This is one of the things I always have to remind myself – that even if it’s new to me, it’s likely not new to the people who are going to help me.

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