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Riding the bus: an odyssey

author: john loeppky| sports editor

Credit: Ella Mikkola

Be it because of my own stupidity, frustrating strive for independence, or some other form of shortsightedness, I ride the bus – wheelchair and all – a number of times a week.

Every time I put myself in the hands of Regina Transit, it is quite the adventure. When a person in a wheelchair gets on the bus, they have to be tied down so that they don’t get hurt when the bus inevitably jerks to its destination.

The trick is, no one bus driver ties a wheelchair down in the same way. I have met some drivers who have, let’s just say, a fascinating intellectual relationship with the concept of physics. In other words: if the bus stops suddenly I am going to be the worst hurt, not the least.

I wonder how much training they get, what the actual rules are, how many disabled citizens take the regularly scheduled bus (as opposed to ParaTransit – whose own problems could fill an entire issue of our newspaper), and what can be done to have wheelchair users feeling more comfortable during their commutes.

Whenever a driver is trying to strap me down, they all give the same excuse: that they would get in trouble with SGI if my safety were not even attempted. I think this is their way of acknowledging how uncomfortable the process is.

I’m going to pause to give a pro-tip: if you need to use a wheelchair, and feel comfortable doing so, try to get strapped down on the right-hand side of the bus (the left side going on, facing the back of the bus). When you position yourself this way you can, generally speaking, release yourself from the seatbelt contraption used. For me, this makes me feel safer, more in control. Granted, I am physically able to do so, so take my approach for what it’s worth.

So, how can Regina’s transit system improve? Give the drivers more training, for one. Second, communicate with your passengers, trust what they are telling you, and trust that they know what is safe for them.

As disabled people, it is important to become in tune with our own bodies, to understand what we need in order to be safe. These are things that should be taught, and nurtured, so that our society can be more inclusive. We can’t forget that the best voice is our own. We need to know that we can trust our own experiences and our own understandings of what it means to exist as a disabled person in this world.

In short, it is wonderful that Regina Transit has included the disabled community. All of our buses (to my knowledge) can be lowered to the sidewalk level to create entry opportunities. The drivers that I’ve met are very friendly and try to be as helpful as they can. Let’s just make their jobs, and people’s lives, easier.

About John Loeppky

I am an athlete with a writing problem, or a writer with a sports problem, you decide. When I'm not editing, playing wheelchair sports, or advocating for the disabled, you can find me de-stressing with friends.