Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Experiences

I decided to start a new blog segment called New Experiences, which is essentially going to be shorthand for new experiences in my personal accessibility related adventures. To kick things off I had two such noteworthy new experiences this past Friday. The first experience was that I rode a Minneapolis city bus for the first time, which was an interesting set of events. I was a part of a nonprofit leadership training group that was touring a few downtown Minneapolis nonprofits. I knew ahead of time that the plan was for us to ride buses together as a group, so I was equal parts nervous and intrigued. I considered driving myself instead but playing downtown parking ramp round robin wasn't a better option when it came down to it. Of my biggest concerns were if I would have enough room to move my wheelchair around inside the bus and if there would be enough open space to sit inside (i.e. if the bus was full or another wheelchair user was already sitting in the designated accessible seating area).

When the bus arrived and it was my turn to get on, the bus driver lowered the front end of the bus and a ramp flipped out the same way that one would open a book and flatten it out on the table. Turning the corner inside from ramp to bus aisle was tight, as was the small area for me to turn around and face front wards again, but it worked out just fine. (Side note: had I been in my new, bigger wheelchair I would not have had enough room, however.) Then the bus driver connected a few safety cables on the floor to my chair "just in case." And we were off. The only uncomfortable thing was that every time the bus driver hit the gas and sped up from a stopped position it made me and my chair rock back a little. So I grabbed onto the flipped up seat bench next to me to brace myself for a little extra feeling of security. It was an interesting little learning experience overall, but that's not to say that I'm going to run right out there and do it again unless I need to. I prefer the comfort of driving my van much more.

At the second nonprofit location I needed to ride an elevator up to the fifth floor. Normally that's barely worth a mention but it was highly notable in this case because it was the smallest elevator I've ever seen in my life. The pic below might not do it justice but the elevator cart barely fit me and my chair plus another person. If I sat right in the middle and stuck out my elbows I might have almost been able to touch both side walls. I've been in my fair share of elevators in the past thirteen plus years and feel like I've seen them all at this point, but I thought that one was quite remarkable. Definitely a new experience, and maybe the most fun I've ever had riding an elevator on account of it's uniqueness. In fact, it was so intimate in there once the door closed on us that I joked that I had to remember to bring a date back to that building someday.


  1. I always wonder about the wheelchair on the bus thing too. I took Pete in his stroller on the bus the otherday and wasn't sure how that was going to work either. The buses have wheelchair areas and fittings, but I've never seen a ramp. The driver just helped me haul the stroller up the stairs, so I'm still wondering where that ramp is. Glad you had successful first bus trip. Pete did too. LOVED it. Now every time he sees a bus, "Ride bus? Ride bus?"

  2. Up until last year, I rode the bus to & from work in St. Paul daily. The "ramps" I've seen on buses there are more like elevators. I'm not sure, but I think it might be a law for buses in St. Paul (maybe all of MN?) to have them nowadays. I've never seen a driver put down that elevator/ramp for a stroller, but I have often seen passengers, as well as the driver, help people board with strollers. Also, I've never seen anyone express annoyance at the extra time it takes for some people to board the bus. But then, that's Minnesota nice!

  3. Yeah, this second comment beat me to the punch. You are referring to the style of bus ramp that I assumed I was going to use. In that case, the bus still lowers, then the ramp platform slides out from underneath the bottom step and lowers to the ground, then the wheelchair user gets on and rides up elevator/Aladdin magic carpet style until the platform is parallel to the bus aisle, then the person gets on and finds a seat.

    I had a hard time describing the ramp I used. There were no steps but rather just one inclined step inside the bus. The ramp is very hidden and you would never see it otherwise because when it is inactive it is part of the floor that people walk on and stand on to pay their fare. The ramp's fulcrum point, if you will, is the outermost edge of that first (and in this case only) bus step. Then the floor piece flips up and out. So the front end of the ramp that I first rolled onto from the sidewalk is the same edge that's under your toes where you stand to pay your fare. It's really hard to explain, I hope that clears it up a little. I wanted to take a pic of it but the driver closed up shop and was moving on to the next stop before I could get my phone cam ready.

    Given the choice, I much prefer the ramp style that I used. The other way you should really get on the ramp platform backwards for safetey (e.g. to prevent flipping off the ramp backwards), which probably means you need to back onto the bus, pay your fare backwards, go down the aisle in reverse, etc. Plus it's much more of a production and more nerve racking. The way it was on the buses I took was very smooth and efficient.

  4. What style ramp does your van have?


  5. I have a mini van with a fold out ramp. In my new van the ramp will come straight out from underneath the floor. I'll post pics of both in a future post.