This is the third post in a series entitled “Issues I face as a working adult with a disability.” Read the last post: Is the disability real if it’s not physical?
One of the hardest things to deal with is getting around when you can’t drive. Even though I live in a city where the public transportation is pretty good, it still doesn’t always get me where I need to go or when I need to be there. I get around pretty well using the T as long as I stick to inside Boston, but when I need to get somewhere outside the city which is not on the T it is much more difficult…there are many places that are impossible to reach without a car.
I am lucky to have qualified for The RIDE and use it almost every day. The RIDE is a door to door transportation program for adults with disabilities in the Boston area subsidized by the State of Massachusetts. They get me to work, but it is really difficult to rely on…actually, you never can rely on it…just hope that they come on time and get me to work on time. Luckily, my work supervisor understands the difficulties I have with dependable transportation and as long as I call him that I am going to be late, he is OK with it.
Scheduling The RIDE is really hard. Their website often doesn’t work and when it is down, I have to call the dispatcher to book my RIDE schedule. Usually when I do this there is a problem with communication: either they don’t understand me or I don’t understand them, so getting the details right is really hard. The other problem with calling in RIDE requests is that you can’t do it far ahead in advance which means I need to be really organized, which is one of my challenges. Using the website is easier for me since I can see online what I have requested.
I am lucky that my parents live nearby and can help me out in a travel emergency. If they weren’t here I would have to rely on private taxis, which are so expensive that I can’t afford them. Most of the people in my residential program also don’t drive, so I don’t have a friend who I can ask for a ride when I need one.
Food shopping is really hard without a car, too. Again, I am lucky to be living within walking distance of the T and can bring my groceries home in a cart. But that means I can’t buy too much; I can’t take advantage of sales; I can’t shop around for the best prices at different stores; and I can’t get to discount stores like Costco or BJ’s to stretch my limited finances.
Mostly, the world we live in is car oriented. Planning weekend events with friends and picking up my girlfriend is so much harder because I can’t drive. The T shuts down at 1 a.m. so we have to be really careful not to miss the last train. This is true for most people who live in Boston. But it was very hard for me to accept that I could never learn to drive and when my high school peers were all getting their licenses, and even my younger sister learned to drive, I felt really left out. I missed a whole part of becoming an adult.
Ben Winnick is 32 years old and grew up in Needham, MA. He currently lives in Brighton, MA and works in the commercial kitchen at Newbridge on the Charles, an assisted living and skilled nursing facility in Dedham, MA. Ben loves animals and especially his family labradoodle, Kasey.