Options. We all want them. It is a human right to want to be able to choose. But, all too often for people with disabilities choices are often hard, if not impossible, to come by.
I live in a large metropolitan city, where a person can spend a half a day just trying to decide where they will drink their next café Cubano or which Jamaican eatery has the spiciest tastiest beef Jamaican patties and will be the hot lunch spot.
Choices abound. Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? That is all true unless, you’re a person with a disability who’s in need of repairs to a vital piece of equipment. Then, the choices narrow from millions to less than half of a hand full. Recently, I’ve been equipment challenged. (For those of you who are wondering what exactly that means, it means everything is breaking down all around me, chairs, vans, you name it, it’s broken or on its way there and waiting to surprise me.)
Trying to find an honest, reliable, competent repair company can be more challenging than trying to reach a ketchup bottle, that has been left on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet that is three feet higher than you can reach, from the position of a sitting position.
I drive a 1995 White Plymouth Voyager that is equipped with a lift and hand controls. The other day, on my way to work, I stopped off at the grocery store to get some orange juice. What for most people, myself included, would have been a ten-minute errand at the most, turned out to be a three-hour ordeal. After happily buying my juice, I hit the outside button that controls the switch to open the door, hoping to get in.
Click. Click. Nothing.
The door wouldn’t open. I tried the other buttons¾which are strategically placed at three other points on and in the van for easier access¾to see if maybe they would work. They didn’t.
I got out of my scooter and transferred into the van to see if the lift would work manually. After about forty-five minutes in the hot South Florida sun, on my knees trying to manually pry open the door, it was still clicking and not opening, I decided it was no use. I had to call my repair company, hoping for some guidance, tips, and yes, to be rescued.
They would not be able to come to pick-up the vehicle. I would have to bring it to them if I wanted them to look at it today. But, I can’t get my scooter in the van, I explained. Someone will call you back soon, I was told. But that is the best that can be done for you today. Frustrated and angry, that this was just a trivial business matter to be at a later, more convenient time for the company, I was determined to do something to resolve the problem.
After some strategic planning and relying on the kindness of strangers, I was able to make some arrangements for security to keep the chair while I tried to get the van door fixed. I called in to work, rescheduled my appointments and off to repair my chair I door I went.
After two and a half hours, it was fixed (at least for now.)
Why didn’t I go to another company that was closer to where I am? There is only one other company that is even remotely close to where I am. At that company, they realize that they are one of only a few vendors that can do those kinds of repairs, and their attitude and customer service reflect that. Take it or leave it.
I wish I could say this is an isolated incident. But, sadly, it’s not.
The other day, my four-wheeled scooter also broke down. (I told you I was mobility challenged.) It took a large wheelchair supply company more than three days to “fix” a problem with it hesitating and not backing up.
Now it backs up at least, but still cuts it self off periodically, which is particularly exciting when crossing the street in Miami.
Again, it is worth emphasizing that I have been a person with a disability my whole life and have lived in Miami for 19 years, so I’m familiar with the options that exist out there for people with disabilities. These are the best of the bad lot.
Until people with disabilities are perceived as an economic threat with choices, then companies, like my two will continue to thrive and survive or be weeded out. I AM AFRAID. I’M VERY AFRAID!