Thursday, August 17th was another beautiful, sunny day. So beautiful that as I waited outside after a medical appointment for a HandyDART to drive me home, I reclined in my wheelchair to soak up the rays of the sun. I love the fact that I have a battery-powered wheelchair that I can make recline as far back as I want it to.
After a while, still waiting for my DART, I decided to sit up straight again. My chair did not respond. It would not budge.
Then the helper who was with me tried, but after numerous attempts he also could not get the chair to respond.
My wheelchair has a ‘tip mode’ and a ‘drive mode’, so my helper then tried the drive mode with me still tipped back. That didn’t work either. The chair was not working at all.
No to worry I thought, I’m happy here soaking up the sunshine in tilt and when the HandyDART arrives, I will just get pushed by my helper into the bus.
How wrong I was!
A few moments later, the DART arrived, and the very pleasant, helpful driver came over to assist me. Inexplicably, as soon as I told him my chair was not functional, he told me that he would therefore not be allowed to take me!
This made no sense to me, as I had no other way to get home. Even a wheelchair-accessible taxi would not do the trick as the hatch at the rear of the taxi would not be able to close with me tipped so far back.
The driver finally agreed to my request to ask his dispatcher for permission to take me.
I then waited for what seemed like an interminable amount of time, only to have the driver return with a forlorn look on his face. He apologized profusely and told me that he wanted to drive me but could not get dispatch to give him permission.
A minute or two later, he and his vehicle departed, leaving me stranded on the sidewalk with absolutely no way to get home.
So, I called HandyDART and I asked to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor was very pleasant but did little more than refer me to the relevant portion of “the guidebook”. Using every diplomatic skill in my toolbox, I managed to at least get her to agree to speak to her supervisor. She said she would call me back.
When she called back, and once again refused to pick me up, I asked if I was using a manual [not motorized] chair, would I be denied a ride. She replied that if chair was manual, I would not be denied a trip as manual chairs are not self-propelled. I pointed out the absurdity of allowing chairs that are not self-propelled to ride on the DART but not permit a motorized chair that is temporarily not self-propelled on to a DART. And btw, my chair has a manual mode.
I will not now recount the details of the numerous calls that then ensued, other than to say that it was approximately two hours later when the HandyDART bureaucracy finally relented and consented to send a DART that would take me home.
Throughout this ordeal, I had to keep reminding HandyDART that I would be literally sleeping on the sidewalk if they would not agree to take me.
I offer the above experience to illustrate the fact that TransLink’s HandyDART service too frequently allows itself to be straightjacketed by meaningless rules.
This is due in part, at least in my opinion, to the fact that the people in charge are not able to put themselves in the shoes (so to speak) of the customer.
Unfortunately, once I got home my struggles with bureaucracy were not quite done.
My chair still not working, and I remained tipped back with no way to sit up.
So, I phoned my wheelchair company to request an immediate service call. They refused, alleging that six months ago they had recommended I replace the control box. Try as I might to correct the record [I had replaced the control box approximately 1 year ago at a cost – I might add -of $2,000], they would not listen to me or agree to send a technician to my home. Once again, my negotiation skills were put to the maximum test and an hour of phone calls later, they agreed to send a technician on condition that I agree, in advance, that the technician would only be assessing/diagnosing the problem and would not be attempting to fix the problem. I had no choice and so accepted this condition.
Two hours later, a technician arrived. He took one look, said he had a pretty good idea what the issue was, took out a small hammer and tapped the machine. This immediately fixed the problem. He explained that sediment often builds up in the mechanism and it just needed to be loosened.
I’ve always believed that rules should be our slaves and not our masters. Service should mean actually solving problems.
The techie had common sense. So did the HandyDART driver. And what of the bureaucrats at the wheelchair company and those at HandyDART?
Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]
Latest daily total (August 27, 2023): 419.38ppm
One year ago (August 27, 2022): 416.06ppm
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