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Now that I'm here . . . even small gaps feel like the Grand Canyon!

Have you ever gotten the front wheel of your scooter or wheelchair caught in a crevice? Or gotten tripped up because your cane or walker fell into a crack? Then maybe you can relate to what happened to Willie.

Willie has been fighting the good fight — whether dealing with CTA bus operators' bad attitudes or their lack of practice in lift deployment: he gets where he needs to go! Don't get me wrong. Willie uses both special services and the CTA. The important thing is that Willie decides which service he will use, based on his health, endurance, and the weather.

Willie is not shy. After mastering the accessible bus system, he moved on to the CTA's accessible train system. While he deals with a lot of the system's problems — such as buying and using the Transit Card — he has gotten on the trains.

His attitude is, "I can do it myself!" He would just board the train by popping wheelies — you know, getting on and off without the use of the "gap filler" — which was going great until one day he misjudged the landing point and his front wheels fell between the train and the platform. He was not hurt, but it took 20 minutes to get him unstuck. Willie swore up and down that he would never use the CTA trains again.

Well, Willie is a greedy man and he wants as much opportunity as life has to offer. He found out where the call buttons are located at the stops that he uses by calling 1 800/YOUR CTA — and by asking the station personnel for help. He learned where to position his chair so the motorman knows he wants to get on the train; he has mastered the system so well that he has gotten the process down to 3 minutes. Sometimes with the help of a station attendant he even has the gap filler ready so that, when the train arrives, he is able to board at the same speed as the rest of the passengers.

The bottom line, folks, is that if you learn how to make the system work and really become familiar with all the trouble spots, you will be able to get where you need to go on mainline accessible service.

Willie still has occasional problems with the CTA personnel in deploying the gap filler and he still finds the transit card frustrating to use, but he is making the system work for him. He also admits that there are CTA employees who are helpful and professional when assisting him — and he goes a step further by saying that while it's a slow process, the CTA line personnel in general are improving. Of course, it helps to know that he reports any problems he has on the CTA by calling 1 800/YOUR CTA. I guess the squeaky wheel does get the oil.

So, before you fall (into the gap!), make the call, and push the call button for assistance to board the CTA trains and for help with the gap filler.


Council for Disability Rights

Knowing your rights is the easy part. Exercising them can be a bit trickier.

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