American Association of Blind Teachers

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Dana Nichols

Note: This article was written prior to the advent of paratransit systems in many cities. A paratransit system is a public, pre-scheduled service that provides curb-to-curb or door-to-door service upon request. Paratransit is available for people who are unable to use a Transit fixed-route bus because of a disability. To qualify for service you must meet one of the conditions established by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA. To learn how to apply, contact your local transit company.

For all blind persons, managing transportation is a problem. For the itinerant teacher, who sometimes visits three or more schools in a day or has to go from one town to another in the school district, transportation is an especially thorny problem. In a city with mass transit, public transportation is the easiest solution. Affluent school districts may even provide drivers just as they provide classroom aides. Other more creative solutions have also been used, such as hitching rides on the school bus with the children or riding from school to school with the vehicle delivering lunches. In these cases, the itinerant teacher, like all of us, still has the problem of getting to work and back home again. A practical solution is to hire a driver of your own.

Joyce Kleiber of Wayne, Pa. uses a driver from a local driving service in her work as a family therapist. She first heard of the service when a friend of a friend hired a driver after foot surgery. The service was operated by a retired person and was intended especially for people in retirement homes and others prevented from driving. Joyce's driver is the sister of the owner of the service. "She's a delightful person," said Joyce, "and she's more reliable than a taxi. And when she is ill or goes on vacation, there's a substitute."

Before deciding that a personal driver is out of your budget, consider that the rate in the Northeast is usually $8 an hour plus 25 cents a mile. Time is counted from the time the driver leaves his home until he returns. "Since I'm a regular customer," says Joyce, "she's reduced the rate. I pay about $35 a week. The number of miles we travel is certainly more than that."

In other cases, different remuneration is made. Jimmy Gibson, a librarian in Montgomery, Al., employs a driver who has an earnings limit because of Social Security. He repays his driver by filling the gas tank, taking her out to lunch, and otherwise making himself helpful to her. For getting to work, both Jimmy and Joyce have a standing appointment with the driver, but spur-of-the-moment trips are possible, depending on the driver's other commitments. "If she's available, she'll come," says Joyce. "I can call her for social occasions, or if I want to go out just for fun or shopping. My husband has also used her to get to the doctor.

"I would not have been able to take this job had it not been for this driving service," says Joyce. "I couldn't have even completed my training with families. Instead, for the first time in my life, I did not have to turn down a job because I had no way to get there." The only possible drawback is that sometimes the driver wants to chat on an evening after Joyce has had an especially hard day. "It's like any other interpersonal relationship," says Joyce. "You have to set boundaries."

So how do you go about finding a driver? "Ask, and you're more likely to receive," says Joyce. Letting people know your problem tends to expand the problem-solving process. Have your friends watch the newspaper for ads of driving services. Inquire at churches, which often sponsor volunteer groups. Check with R.S.V.P., the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Often people who have retired still want to be active and feel needed. If they like driving, so much the better. For the itinerant teacher, they can be the difference between a job that's a hassle and a job that is rewarding and challenging.

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