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Woman in wheelchair with arms in in the air waving as her wheelchair accessible van drives away with a non-disabled person riding in it.

Who Steals a Wheelchair Cab?!

It was raining and I was exhausted when I arrived into my home station on the train and discovered that my wheelchair cab wasn’t there. I received a message that it had arrived, but the cabbie never phoned and had left without me. When I called the cab company, I asked where my reserved cab was and that I needed a wheelchair accessible vehicle. They apologized and said the cab had picked up the wrong person and were working on getting me another cab.

How does someone take a wheelchair cab?

What?! I was confused. Is there another person with my name and shiny, red hotrod (aka wheelchair) out there joyriding in my cab? Do I have an evil twin who steals other people’s cabs? I liked these elaborate scenarios over the obvious one: there were plenty of people waiting and the cabbie decided to pick up someone else. Likely someone else not in a wheelchair, meaning less work than getting me loaded.

I couldn’t just use a regular cab

But I can’t just take another cab. I’m waiting there, watching the rain, for an hour before another wheelchair cab appears. In the meantime, dozens of people jump into regular cabs and speed off. The cab that can accommodate my wheelchair is not from any of the two companies I already called (and who never called me back—I could still be waiting there!) to request a wheelchair cab. I’m lucky because he just happened to have the right vehicle and stopped where I needed a pickup to get home. My careful planning turned into a nightmare, which turned into a lucky event.

Travel nightmares with wheelchair accessibility

I am used to travel nightmares. And I am used to the fact that it’s always something new and different. I can plan all I want, something will still go wrong. I’ve never had a cab stolen from me before. So that was new!

Sometimes planning ahead doesn’t matter

I’ve had cabs not show up. So, sometimes, when I have no other option and absolutely need one (such as to catch a plane first thing in the morning), I compensate and book two. The more the merrier, right? Wrong, one time they showed up at the same time and got into an argument (Hello! I booked you a half-hour apart for a reason! So I could at least be nice enough to cancel the second if the first one showed). Since I was boarding one already, I figured I could call that guy the winner (the other one was way late!). Still, it wasn’t fun. But I blame them for making me go to such lengths just to get where I am going in my wheelchair. Should it be this hard?

Wheelchair space is not luggage storage

When I arrived from the train part of the problem with my exhaustion was the fact that I had to ride in the cafe car. I had booked a wheelchair space and accompanying seat for my husband, Richard, but was told when boarding the train that no wheelchair spaces were available so I was crammed instead into the cafe car. I couldn’t nap or rest as I was in the cafe car. Apparently, it’s not just no rest for the weary, but also for the wheelchairs.

Why does luggage get my seat?

On a hunch I asked Richard to cross into the next car and check out the wheelchair space. He reported back that it was filled with luggage. So in every car, I suspect the wheelchair spaces were filled with baggage and the space I paid for was in use by suitcases. I didn’t see loads of wheelchairs riding off the train. In fact, I saw not a one.

The lack of wheelchair accommodations is frustrating

I am left speechless. It is so hard to find the accommodations that I need in order to get out in the world: a wheelchair cab, a little space on the train, etc. And when I do, it seems like they are yanked out from under me. I so want to shake someone. To say, these are spaces for people that need them, that cannot get around without them. Can’t we make a little effort to make sure they are available?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Kelly,
    I am so sorry! These events are unconscionable and should never happen!! The use of handicapped seating for luggage is ridiculous!!! Having spent 2.5 years on a cane, I noticed these issues in the grocery store. The electric carts are frequently out of charge, or go out in the middle of a shopping trip. And people look right over you.
    In my area, all our buses are handicapped accessible. It needs to be so everywhere!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 day ago

    Thanks Mary Sophia! I could not agree more! The things we do for accessibility should be working and available for the people that need them. And that statement should not be such a revolutionary idea! 🙂 Best, Kelly (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • 2mra
    2 weeks ago

    Wow Kelly!! I’ve definitely seen this at a couple of hospitals. The sad people sitting there waiting for the bus for the disabled. Some sitting there for almost an hour. I hear their stories and sympathize, while I wait for my hubby.

    You are all way more important than luggage. It’s disgusting. I’m sorry that you had to go through that also. That’s a relief that Richard was with you.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 day ago

    Thank you 2mra! Really appreciate your encouragement and support. I AM more important than luggage–it is so good to be reminded. 🙂 Best, Kelly (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • mariakk
    3 weeks ago

    I cringed reading your story as I relate. I use a power wheelchair which presents its own unique challenges while traveling. My husband and I chose to drive our van when we can. My issue is mainly with hotels. I book an accessible room after thorough vetting and unfortunately too many times am told upon check in that the room I reserved is not available. With my husband’s help I can sometimes “make do” but I shouldn’t have to. Give me what I need to be safe and comfortable and not to mention what I paid for! I take a breath and remember what my mother always said as we navigated through barriers…it’s always an adventure

  • Richard Faust moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Hi mariakk. I completely understand what you are saying and the frustration. I happen to be the author’s husband and Kelly also uses a motorized chair. We have certainly had similar hotel experiences – whether it be beds too tall, too much furniture to get the wheelchair around, steps into the shower, or thermostats that even I can barely reach. Oh, the stories I’m sure we could trade. Much like you wrote, Kelly often comments that her money spends the same as everyone else’s. She wrote more about dealing with accessibility anxiety here: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/limited-wheelchair-accessibility/. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Thanks for commenting and sharing mariakk. So frustrating to have that happen, especially when you try to plan ahead. Appreciate you chiming in and being part of our community. best, Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team Member

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    3 weeks ago

    So rude. We do not have mass transit in my area, so cabs are the only option for most people. There was a bus that ran for people with disabilities, but the service was so poor that they were leaving people waiting in the cold over night without being picked up. Yes that service ceased to be a service, well in fact they ceased to be period.

    I am so sorry this happened Kelly. People are just rude.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 day ago

    Thanks Rick. It is a real problem. Accessible public transit was one of the big reasons I moved here because I don’t drive. It is frustrating that in such a large city these issues are commonplace. How much worse is it in other areas without mass transit? Just terrible and wish we did better on this as a society. Best, Kelly (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Cynthia Ventura moderator
    3 weeks ago

    How totally frustrating Kelly…ugh. Those of us who do not need to use wheelchairs have no clue about the difficulties wheelchair users encounter over and about access. What you shared is an absolute nightmare and things need to change. It’s not just about legislation but compassion and humanity. The laws exist but they are obviously being circumvented. It’s unfathomable that you booked a wheelchair space on the train but it was being used to accommodate luggage! Who can we call and report this to because it should have never happened to you or any other person who uses a wheelchair. The whole story about someone stealing your cab is another indignity. I don’t know how you and others deal with this. It sure makes me look at myself and the things I complain about. Whenever I’m tempted in the future to gripe about something I will remember this article and the challenges you endure just trying to get around. Things need to change, like yesterday. We need to make a start. The more people who get involved the better.

    CynthiaV

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 day ago

    Considering the recent news about Amtrak (they wanted to charge two wheelchairs users $25,000 for a usually $16 fare due to train accessibility problems) I guess I am supported in my frustrating train experience! Thankfully, when I complained they responded with a voucher but I am not hopeful they will actually address the luggage problem (which I have seen in action for at least 20 years). Really appreciate your support. -Kelly (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

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