Traveling as a blind individual can be challenging. If we have attended an orientation center for blindness training, we are taught that we can do anything, and that it shouldn’t be challenging. And a lot of that is true. But what we are not taught is how challenging it can be. We are taught to use our resources whether that be city buses, subways, trains, taxi’s, Uber or Lift. We become self sufficient and comfortable using these during training. But what happens when we go home? What happens if we come from a small community and go back to that community or another small community? A community without a good bus system? Without subways or trains? A community where we don’t have those resources we were taught to use?
I live in a fairly small area, and I face these challenges every day. I could live in a bigger city with better resources, but I choose not to. I enjoy small community life. So how do I combat these challenges?
Let’s talk about the area I live in a bit first. My community is small, but not too small. We still have a city bus (I say this in the loosest of terms.) Our buses stop approximately once an hour, if that, and only run until 6 p.m. and not at all on Sundays. The stops are few and far between, and some buses only run in one direction. So you might have to ride almost the whole loop before you get to the stop you want. It is time consuming, and not super reliable as the times it stops are not exact. The bus could be a few minutes early or late, and you might have to wait another hour or longer for the next one if you miss it. We have no Subways, trains, or trolleys. We do have taxis, but you have to call for them ahead of time, and it is better to schedule them in advance, as they could take quite awhile to get to you. We do also have Uber and Lift, but they are fairly new to the area, and I have not had the chance to try them yet. But these last options are pricey. So how do I actually get around independently?
The first thing I do is research. Before I move to a new place, I need to consider location; which area of town would be most accessible by bus. I need to live close to a bus stop for those few times when riding it would be convenient. I need to consider what is walkable; what is nearby; where would I need to go most often; and where I would want to be able to walk to. And then I consider all the other things you look for when moving such as: is it pet friendly, how many bedrooms it has etc.
The biggest thing I had to consider in my last move was: where was the school my son would go to in relation to our home. It was the deciding factor to where I would settle. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a place with all my afore mentioned requirements. So I had to give and take a little. I knew that I had to be close enough to a school to walk. If I was far enough away that my son had to ride a bus, then that would mean that it would probably be too far to conveniently walk to. I always need to be able to get to the school easily and independently. What if my son was sick or hurt? What if something else unforeseen happened and I had to pick him up in the middle of the day? Also, if we were far enough that I would need to take a bus, well … our buses stop running at 6 pm. What about school programs or conferences? Those mostly take place in the evening, how would I get to those if I was unable to get a ride from someone?
So, I had to be able to walk! But I couldn’t find anything close enough to a school and to other desirable places such as shopping centers or restaurants. So I had to decide what was more important. So of course I chose the school. After all, was it really that important that I be able to walk to get ice cream whenever I wanted? No … my son’s education is way more important than my sweet tooth no matter how much said tooth tries to convince me otherwise.
I am however close to a bus stop, though I never use it. As I mentioned, it is more inconvenience than it is worth. But if I needed to, I could. So, as much as it pains me to admit, and believe me, it pains me a lot, I use paratransit. It is my cheapest and most convenient option. I was taught that taking paratransit or other similar option, was a huge no no. I am not disabled enough to be able to justify such a method. My legs work, I can walk. I was taught about all sorts of resources and how to use them. I know how to figure out where a business is, and how to get there using public transit. So, I should never have to use a door to door method. But I am not in a big city anymore, my options are limited. So I use paratransit, and I feel guilty for it every time I do. Though, I should not, and neither should anyone else. Sometimes it is just the best option. In my town, taking a city bus is time consuming and impractical especially with a child. I do not have time to waste up to two hours of my day getting to my destination and two hours coming home. It takes time away from my son, and we both deserve to have that time. So, never ever feel guilty for what you must do, especially when your options are limited. What we are taught in training can be extreme, and in a way it needs to be. We need to learn how to be independent, and that is probably the best way to do it. But there is no reason when we go back home, or move to a smaller community, to feel guilty when our resources that we had in the big city aren’t available to us anymore. Instead, we must adapt, and find our own independence, and if that means taking a door to door service, so be it!
And last but not least, rides from friends or family. I really struggle with this one, I don’t like asking for help; I don’t like asking people to take time out of their day to take me somewhere. But I do it because I have to, and I am getting better at it all the time. Having a large community of friends and family has really helped with this one. I never used to have a community to call my own. I didn’t know what that meant, to have a “community.” I didn’t even know where to start to build one. But this past year, I started learning. I started joining different groups like a running club, and a music appreciation group. Just joining those groups got me out more, making more friends, and hearing of other opportunities to join other groups and make more friends.
Currently, I have a larger personal community than I ever have in my life, than I ever knew was possible to have. It is absolutely wonderful! Having so many people willing to help and support me, means that I have more people I can call on when I need a ride. Not only does it feel great to have a lot of people who care about me, it is extremely beneficial as well. It caused me so much guilt to only have one or two people to call on if I needed a ride. I felt like I was a burden, because I couldn’t see to drive myself, and I needed help getting around because public transit here is not ideal. And because there was so few people I had that I could ask, it fell to them a lot. So I felt like a burden, and I hated it.
Now, I have a lot more people I can ask, and the burden doesn’t just fall on one person all the time. And I feel more free and independent because of it!
As I mentioned, I enjoy small community life. And that is how I combat traveling in a small community.
This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
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