Sharon Ewing, a vocational rehabilitation teacher, recently volunteered to work with the Houston Transportation Accessibility Task Force. Ewing wrote to commend the City of Houston for improving transportation accessiblity, and thanked Administration and Regulatory Affairs staff for going the extra mile for her.
Read Ewing's letter:
I want to take this opportunity to talk about my experiences working closely with the City of Houston on the Houston Transportation Accessibility Task Force. The Task Force was requested by the City of Houston to assist with putting together recommendations that addressed the need for fair and even treatment of all people with disabilities in the vehicle-for-hire arena.
There are so many choices now, but, unfortunately, people who are blind and rely on guide dogs as well as people who are in wheelchairs—especially those in wheelchairs that do not fold or collapse—face some unique challenges. Specifically, we can be refused service because either a vehicle does not exist that can carry us, or because someone does not want to transport a service dog. When I say “We can be refused,” I do not mean that it is right or legal, but that it happens.
While I was working on this committee, the members represented people with disabilities in the community, city staff from the Administration & Regulatory Affairs and Legal departments, and those in the vehicle-for-hire industry who are concerned about the accessibility situation. All came together in a common concern to, quite simply, help. These people took the time and made a sincere effort to be available and positive in their wish to work toward solutions that would support everyone.
My point in this letter is to let people know how truly supportive the City of Houston was during this process. We worked together closely for two to three hours at a time, once a month at first, and then, close to the end, weekly, working toward recommendations. During this time, staff from the Department of Administration & Regulatory Affairs attended all of the meetings, giving us their knowledge and support, but in no way trying to interfere with the process. They were amazing to be honest!
At one point in the proceedings, I was in a transportation situation where my transportation was not available at the time I had requested so I could return home after our meeting. The folks from the Department of Administration and Regulatory Affairs helped me to resolve the transportation situation and Diehl, my German Shepherd Seeing Eye Dog, and I were able to get home safely.
In situations like this, I have had to wait for at least an hour, maybe more, and this was in the early evening of a quickly darkening winter day. The humanity and kindness shown by the city’s representatives was surprising and an unexpected gift. Sometimes, you don’t think of city officials as being genuinely compassionate, but they are and were toward me.
As far as my experience on the committee, I was treated with respect and my suggestions were given consideration just as anyone else’s. I am a blind woman, a professional vocational teacher who currently has a Seeing Eye Dog and has had guide dogs for the past 13 years. We have had our share of situations where we were refused transport because of my dog, and we have learned to move forward and to advocate for ourselves and others. This committee with its aims and goals was our opportunity and we are grateful to have been a part of it.
Thank you, City of Houston, for this much appreciated opportunity.
And, a special thanks to The Department of Administration & Regulatory Affairs, who showed me the warm and human side of city government.
Vocational Rehabilitation Teacher