|Karon Duckworth loves the independence that comes|
with her new wheels.
Three agencies worked together for a quick solution
“My chair got stuck and it bottomed out trying to get through the grass,” she said. The bus driver tried to help, but by the time she got back to the pavement, her chair was scraped up and it barely moved. Over the next 35 minutes, she crawled past five businesses.
She enlisted her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend to help out. “During that time it was flipping gears. It would speed up and go really really fast and then it would just stop.” They eventually manhandled the chair into her house. “There was no way I was going back outside with it,” she said.
Duckworth's story has a happy ending. She came in contact with the Utah Transit Authority’s ADA Compliance Officer, Cherissa Alldredge. Alldredge knew that a non-functioning chair is a serious thing--and that patrons, especially wheelchair patrons--should only be let off at an official stop. “I immediately suggested she contact our claims department to file a claim,” she said.
Alldredge then discovered that Duckworth knew Tom Boman, the Utah Assistive Technology Program’s Salt Lake City Coordinator. In fact, the chair Duckworth had been driving was from UATP. They talked about getting her a loaner chair from UATP while her broken chair was repaired.
Then Duckworth found out a chair was ready for her right away.
“And I said, ‘What? You mean a loaner, right?" Duckworth said. "And they (Boman) said no, we have a chair for you.”
The new-to-her replacement chair came through UATP in Salt Lake City, though the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation. Sharry Jolley, a vocational rehabilitation counselor in Richfield, knew its history.
“It was returned to us by a client,” she said. He couldn’t use it because he needed a head rest, and that chair didn’t have one. So he found a different wheelchair that would work for him at UATP in SLC, and returned the one that didn’t work to the Richfield Office.
The Richfield office donated the client’s chair to UATP, and Boman knew it would be a perfect fit for Karon. UATP’s service fee was covered by UTA, so Duckworth didn’t have to pay for her new wheels. She was rolling again. Her old chair went back to UATP to be scrapped for working parts. And the new-to-her chair is better than her old one was, pre-incident.
“It’s a little bit newer than I had,” Duckworth said. “I took it out and on the bus, and it was so easy to get on the bus with it and I went up hills with it… It’s the difference between night and day.”
The new wheels mean she can continue going where she needs to go on the bus, shop, attend appointments or roll down the street for a drink refill.
“The silver lining in this is that the new device is better than the old one she used to have,” Alldredge said.
It is also the result of three agencies working together for a fast solution.
If there's a moral to the story, it's this.Automobile drivers, please don’t park in a bus unloading zone. UTA drivers are trained not to drop clients—especially those who use a wheelchair—off at a place other than the official bus stop, Alldredge said. It should not have happened. But now and again, automobile drivers park in a loading zone, and that causes problems.
“We are working on painting the curbs red,” she said. But since UTA doesn’t own the right-of-way, the process is complicated and piecemeal.
So please, motorists, park courteously.