I haven't been able to drive an automobile since 2015. I became disabled in the summer of 2015 after suffering a traumatic brain injury that left me disabled. I was completely bedridden at first. Now, thankfully, after years of training and physical therapy, I'm using a combination of a walker and a wheelchair.
Like a teenager who does not have his license, I have to depend on friends and family to get me around. If I have extra money, Uber or Lyft will suffice. Being on a fixed income, that can get spendy. For someone like me, I can't use a regular Uber; I have to get an XL so my mobility device can fit properly. It's expensive being disabled. I do qualify for (and use) Dial-A-Ride, which is a paratransit service for the area I live in. It is very helpful, but it is not perfect. See, for someone like me who is spontaneous, I need same-day service. The way Dial-A-Ride works is by calling a day in advance to schedule a pickup to and from. So, many times, a friend will message me in the morning wanting to do something, but I have no means of transportation on the day of. Unfortunately, that is not conducive to how I live my life; but like with everything else, I adapt and make it work.
When I first became disabled, everyone was eager to help out, including help with transportation. After eight years, though, I can tell some people are tired of it, and I completely understand. It is beyond frustrating having to depend on others for transportation, or needing transportation in an emergency and not being able to get it. I feel really bad when my mobility device won't fit somewhere, or when it gets in someone’s way (or sometimes even bumps into someone). It really affects me to the point where it's easier to just isolate myself in my room so I don’t feel like a burden.
I had the opportunity to drive an accessible van, which I thought could be an answer to my transportation problem. But when I practiced driving it with my brother, I had to be honest with myself and accept that my double vision is truly affecting my driving abilities. Because of my traumatic brain injury, I also suffer double vision, which makes driving dangerous as I cannot focus safely as I change lanes. I just can't drive safely with my eyes not focusing correctly.
I've been working in coordination with a nonprofit from Seattle called Disability Mobility Initiative for the last two years. They started a program called “Week Without Driving” where we nominate elected officials, board members, and people in the community to dedicate to a week of not driving their personal vehicles. They can only depend on friends and family and public transportation. Of course, they can rollerblade if they want. That's still a thing, right?
The Week Without Driving event is scheduled to take place from October 2–8. As the event approaches, consider signing up for one week without driving, in solidarity with those of us who live every day without the option to drive: weekwithoutdriving.life
Are you down to join?
Jaime R. Torres is a disabled content creator residing in Eastern Washington.