Mary Taloff: Holy sh*t! I’m stranded in New Brunswick.
“At brettapproved® we strive to celebrate what works and we ALWAYS focus on the positive. Every so often life teaches us a lesson and we feel compelled to share. What follows is an excellent blog post from Mary Taloff (with a little help from me) about what it’s like trying to get an accessible cab in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Note: This is not a slam on the city of New Brunswick. The people we met during our stay were fantastic.
The next time you’re traveling on business and something trivial happens that tees you off, think of this post, think of Mary’s adventure and relax. At least you’re not stranded in New Brunswick.
I’m glad this happened. I’m glad I was there to witness it and ultimately find a solution that allowed Mary to attend the expo and serve as the outstanding ambassador for our company that she is.
I’m also glad this happened because as a manual chair user, it opened my eyes regarding the pivotal role accessible transportation plays in the lives of millions of people – our people. I don’t know how yet but we will address the accessible transportation issue at brettapproved®. It’s time. More than that, it’s our responsibility.”
Holy shit! I’m stranded in New Brunswick – By Mary Taloff
The plan was … catch a flight out of Oakland, survive a short layover in Chicago, arrive in Newark, take a cab to the Abilities Expo the next morning; be awesome and spread the word about brettapproved®. What could go wrong?
What actually happened was infinitely more frustrating. Up at the crack of dawn, we drove from Davis to Oakland, hit surprisingly little traffic and presto! We’re at the airport in no time! Which was nice, except then we sat in the airport for two hours waiting for our flight. #goodtimes
We make our flight and land in Chicago no problem. They even let me get my chair off of the plane instead of using a less-than-comfortable airport chair. You know, the kind that fold, have very little support and weigh a ton – think hospital transfer chair. Anyway, I digress.
This is where things go downhill and FAST. Our flight was delayed, theoretically by about 45 minutes. Whatever, stuff happens. Now, even though I specifically called the airline in advance and confirmed that I needed an aisle chair to board the plane, and although they had one for me in Oakland, Chicago was a different story. After several people came and went – each one asking what I needed – the aisle chair finally arrived and everyone, including me, boarded the plane. Score!
Sure, we arrived two hours late in the wee hours of the morning but we MADE it! Wheels on the ground; Hello Newark! Riding in an accessible van Brett arranged ahead of time, we checked into our hotel and went straight to bed.
Friday morning we woke up feeling very optimistic about the day and anticipating an easy cab ride to the expo. Ha! Not so much. It was surprisingly difficult, nay, impossible, to find a cab company with accessible cabs for power wheelchairs in the entire city of New Brunswick and the surrounding hamlets.
Brett called six or seven cab companies in the area, and either they didn’t pick up, the number was no longer in service or they randomly hung up the phone. The few he did reach were sorry to say that they didn’t have any such cabs. “Did you call so-and-so? Because I think they might have an accessible cab,” they would say. We did, and they didn’t. The hotel staff was wonderful and made at least six additional calls with the same result; no cab.
We ended up renting a manual chair (thanks to our friends at Scootaround™ for the referral) so I was able to take a “regular” cab to the expo on Saturday and do my job. I want that phrase to sink in for a second … “do my job.” Not being able to secure an accessible cab in a major metropolitan area prevented me from doing my job. Crazy, right?
It was awesome of brettapproved® to pay for the manual chair we rented, but let’s be honest: I’m not sure many other companies would have and if I was travelling with only my attendant, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.
What’s sad about the whole thing is I wasn’t very surprised it happened. I’ve heard similar stories from so many friends and I for one think enough is enough.
There are 54 million adults in this country who have some kind of mobility challenge. Those of us who travel spend $13.6 billion annually doing so. Imagine how much more we would spend if it weren’t so difficult to accomplish basic tasks such as getting a cab. Are you listening cab companies? I ask because I’m hoping you’re paying attention. I NEED you to pay attention. My community NEEDS you to pay attention.
Serving an ever-growing population is just good business. Forget about the fact that it’s the right thing to do – serving people with physical disabilities and mobility challenges is a flat-out solid business decision. Sure, there are costs associated with serving my community and in some cases they’re substantial. Over time, you WILL make money. Isn’t that the point of owning a business in America?
There was a time at the turn of the 20th century, when America was known for building things; great things. Those days are gone. We have for the most part transitioned to a service-driven economy, a specialized economy. If you have the economic means, you can hire someone to do just about anything. Want someone to bring groceries to your door? Done. Pick up your dry cleaning and hang it up in your closet upon delivery? Done. Want a manicure but don’t feel like going out? Done. Live life on wheels in a power chair and need to get a cab in New Brunswick? Done. Oh wait. My bad. Turns out you can’t do that.
The lack of accessible transportation doesn’t only impact fun trips or vacations. It impacts the type of career people like me can have. Say I work for a multinational company or one with offices across the country, and my boss asks me to go on a last- minute business trip. I might not be able to go, simply because I couldn’t guarantee that I’d be able to secure accessible transportation to and from the airport, or from my hotel to the office – not cool.
If I’d been stranded in New Brunswick with any other boss, the lack of accessible transportation would have been an even more serious issue than it was. After all, the purpose of my trip was to meet people and promote brettapproved® That didn’t happen on the first Friday in May because there are no accessible cabs in New Brunswick.