Independently Dependent

Since our daughter, Shantel, lost her sight to cancer, just before she turned two, our whole lives have been centered around helping Shantel become an independent, contributing, member of society. Her independence was preached to me all throughout her early childhood, elementary school, and high school years. Shantel’s mobility instructors would constantly tell me “let her be independent, don’t do things for her, teach her how to do things for herself”…as hard as it was, I followed their advice and I’m very proud of the strong, independent, young adult, Shantel is today. That said, it still breaks my heart to see what all she, and I’m sure many other’s, have to go through, when they must rely on others for services they can not provide for themselves, like public transportation for those who will never be able to drive.

Because our daughter, Shantel, is totally blind, she has been approved to use Dial-a-Ride services at a discount rate. Dial-a-Ride is a door to door service, meaning they are supposed to come to the door to get you and walk you to the door when they get you to your destination. All Shantel has to do is call Dial-a-Ride and let them know what time she needs to be at a specific location and they will tell her what time they will pick her up.  The only problem with Shantel using Dial-a-Ride to take her to school in the mornings is, she would have to be picked up two hours prior to the time her first class begins due to the high volume of clients that use Dial-a-Ride in the early morning hours. Because of that restriction, I take Shantel to school every morning, which is 21.4 miles from our home. Then, Shantel uses Dial-a-Ride services to get back home in the afternoon.

Shantel gets out of school at 12:15 everyday. She is supposed to only have a half hour wait for Dial-a-Ride to pick her up. Most of the time Dial-a-Ride arrives within the half hour window and Shantel gets home without incident. However, Dial-a-Ride recently partnered with East Valley Cab Service in order to better service all Dial-a-Ride customers. So, now, with the new, improved, service, instead of Shantel having to wait for the Dial-a-Ride van to pick-up and/or drop-off several customers who may be sharing the same van with her, she is picked up by Phoenix Dial-a-Ride at her school and taken approximately 3 miles down the street to a shopping center where she was instructed to sit on a bench in a Fry’s grocery store until the East Valley Cab Service picks her up, within a half hour, and brings her to our house. Again, most of the time this all works out well and when it does, Shantel gets home much faster because she is the only customer in the cab. But, when a system glitch, or dispatcher miscommunication happens, things can go really, really bad, real quick.

Last week,  Phoenix Dial-a-Ride picked up Shantel from school at 12:15 and dropped her off that the Fry’s store at 12:30 to wait for the East Valley Cab Service to pick her up and bring her home. Shantel waited, and waited, but East Valley Cab Service never showed up. So, at 2:00 Shantel called her father, my husband, Bill, to let him know she was still sitting at the Fry’s store and asked him to pick her up on his way home from work. Lucky for us, Bill works just down the street from the Fry’s grocery store so when he got off work at 3:00 he was able to swing by and get Shantel. But, Shantel still had to sit on that bench, in a Fry’s store, where she didn’t even know where the restrooms were, and no one came by to see if she needed anything, for two and a half hours before Bill could get there to pick her up. Independence doesn’t always seem like independence after all!

When Shantel finally arrived home with Bill, at 3:45,  she called Phoenix Dial-a-Ride to let them know her East Valley driver never showed up. The Dial-a-Ride operator said they were sorry but the driver said he “arrived at the Fry’s store, looked in the store but didn’t see anyone standing by the door waiting for a cab. He said he didn’t ask anyone or call out Shantel’s name he just left when he didn’t see anyone standing by the door looking for a cab”.  At this point Shantel asked to speak to a Supervisor and was connected to a “customer advocate”. Shantel asked the customer advocate if there is a note, or flag, on her file that says she is totally blind, to which the customer advocate answered, yes, there is a message stating you are totally blind. Shantel then asked the customer advocate what more she needs to do to ensure the drivers understand she sits on the same bench in the Fry’s store everyday, the one they told her to sit on, and they need to come into the Fry’s store, call out her name, and walk her to the cab. I am so very proud of Shantel for the way she handled this situation.

The customer advocate assured Shantel the bad experience she had last week would never happen again…famous last words, don’t you think?…I guess we’ll see…

Stay Tuned!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Megs
    Sep 05, 2012 @ 20:17:32

    How awful! Good for Shantel taking things into her own hands. Love you all!


  2. Gotham Girl
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 00:56:32

    I pity that customer advocate when this happens again! xoxo MORE!


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