Transportation tops issues among disabled

Craig woman expands crusade


There is a difference in how people look at their days. To most, a "to do" list is filled with inconvenient activities and small errands that take little time. To a disabled person, the list is small accomplishments that take a day's worth of time, planning and energy to complete especially when transportation is hard to come by.

Craig resident Lonnie Bedell, 40, suffered from a stroke nearly two years ago that left him in a wheelchair and unable to drive. His chances of walking again are good if he makes it to therapy every day.

But making that trip is more difficult than most people would imagine. It used to be the county's only wheelchair-accessible van, the senior citizens' "Golden Age Chariot" would take him, but when priorities were made for the van's time, Bedell, along with many other wheel-chair-bound residents, were dropped nearly to the bottom of the list.

Now, Bedell can only make it to therapy when his mother can drive him.

To be available to Bedell, his mother, Mikki, works nights and far less hours than she needs to make a living.

But she makes the sacrifice.

"He has no options," she said. "Either I take him, or he doesn't go. Me? I have no life because I drive him. I make that a priority."

Mikki said she and her son moved to Craig because they were told there was transportation to things like physical therapy.

Bedell spends most of his days watching television in his small apartment.

"I'd just like to be able to go out to a movie or go have dinner," he said. "I just wish I could get around a little better, and there's lots of other people who could use a lift."

According to Independent Life Center Director Evelyn Tileston, transportation is a major issue to the disabled community.

"We know of people who are not able to participate in things because they can't get to them," she said.

Tileston has formed a committee to get a wheel-chair accessible van for community use. A 1973 van was donated to the Center several months ago, but Moffat County Road and Bridge Department Supervisor Dennis Jones said it would cost more to fix it than the van was worth and recommended the County Commissioners not invest in its repair.

Many wheel-chair bound residents try to catch a ride in the senior van, but, because of the priority list, often aren't allowed.

"We need another van because the senior van obviously can't meet the needs or there wouldn't be priorities," Tileston said.

The van is the primary transportation for the Meals on Wheels program, a complete waste of a valuable vehicle's time, she said.

"I think it's abusive not to use the van in a way that benefits more people."

Funds are available through the Moffat County Department of Social Services to offset the cost of taking a cab, but those don't impact the wheel-chair bound because the Craig's cab company, Diamond Cab and Courier, doesn't have an accessible van.

According to Marie Peer, director Social Services 15 people regularly participate in the program, which gives four one-way cab passes a month.

"It's a wonderful program, but it doesn't help people in wheelchairs," Tileston said.

Her committee is looking at what grants are available to purchase a van. She hopes more people will volunteer for the committee to help research the criteria for those grants.

"I want the city and county to be involved because governments can sometimes apply for funds that other people can't apply for," Tileston said.

She is in the process of creating a list of people who will use the van and said she already knows of 12 people who use wheelchairs that would take advantage of the service.

"I could go through our files now, and if we expand beyond wheelchairs, we could probably find more than 30 people who would take advantage of the service," Tileston said.

But that service may be a long time in coming, and disabled people such as Bedell will continue to suffer.

Before his stroke, Bedell was a certified chef. He worked in Coors stadium feeding players and those in private boxes. Limited use of his right hand means he doesn't cook much anymore, but he has been given a $10,000 grant from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for re-education money a lack of transportation may prevent him from using.

"He had a really good career and now he has nothing," Mikki said. "That's why this re-education is so important."

But there's one major road block.

"You can't go to work if you can't get to work," Pres. Bill Clinton said last week. Clinton was in Colorado to discuss an infusion of transportation funds into the state's economy.

"Hopefully we won't be in need of transportation forever, but there are people out there who will," Mikki said.

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