Have you ever heard of the game Frogger? If not, watch this video. It will help you understand my post a bit better. 🙂 For those with vision loss who aren’t able to see it, it shows a video game frog trying to make it to the other side of the screen but navigating all of these moving and stationary obstacles.
Every morning I leave my apartment complex and walk to the entrance of the complex. I then face E. McKinney St. Makiko and I often stand there for quite a while as we listen to the traffic, get the hang of the traffic surges that morning, and wait until we think it is safe to cross. There is a LOT of traffic on this street and it has many lanes. Makiko and I have had a few occassions where we step out, thinking we are going to cross, and then eitehr I realize we can’t, or Makiko realizes we can’t, and we back up. We then wait, wait, and wait some more until we try it again. Sometimes this happens multiple times. We finally cross the street, get to the bus stop, and wait on the side of the road (literally ON the road) or on this grassy hill until the bus comes. The bus then takes us literally 5 minutes down the road to my work, where I get off the bus on the same side of the street as my work. In the afternoons, we go to the edge of the parking lot and edge of E. Mckinney and listen again. We wait, wait, and wait some more until we think it is safe to cross. We do the same backing up, moving forward, game until we safely cross. For a few months, I did this with my friend Devin who uses a wheelchair. He would have to speed across the street (which is not even) and then wait on the side of the road with me. I work for a state agency that assists individuals with disabilities with obtaining and maintaining employment. A lot of people ride this bus and have to do this. Some with physical disabilities, some with sensory disabilities, some with developmental/cognitive disabilities.. yet they all have to do this too.. Employees, interns, and consumers a like. It’s just plain ridiculous.
You might be wondering since I live on the same street as I work, can I walk? The answer to this is no, for several reasons. It is a LONG walk and would probably take me close to an hour to walk it. There is no sidewalk so we would be going from street to grass to street again. The traffic is pretty intense and it is just not safe. I would also have to start this walk around 6:30am, and if you know me, you know for all of the above reasons, this just can’t happen. I moved closer to work so that I wouldn’t have to take a long bus route every morning and afternoon, but didn’t expect that I would have this issue.
Now, I admit, I didn’t really think this would have been a huge issue when we moved into the apartments. We were super excited to see there were two bus stops right next to my apartment, one on the same side of the street as my apartment complex and one on the opposite. (The one on the same side of the street both at my apartment complex at work is where I get dropped off, but the one on the opposite side of the street is where I have to get picked up.) I’m a pretty novice bus rider but can usually get from one place to the next now, but didn’t really think about the placement of the bus stops… they were literally feet from my apartment and work, they were just across the street… So that’s my fault. But regardless, it’s still pretty ridiculous to have a bus stop on the opposite side of the street from an apartment complex. There is also nothing anywhere near on the same side of the street as the bus stop. There is no cross walk, no lighted intersection, no “Blind Crossing sign,” no button to push, nothing.
So literally, every morning I cross this street and almost every afternoon (if I don’t get a ride), and I have to trust my little vision, my sense of hearing, my knowledge of the traffic around us, and Makiko to get me safely across the street. Luckily, we haven’t had any real problems yet, other than a significant increase in my anxiety.
So within the same week of me going to work after moving into these apartments, I realized that it was a problem so I contacted DCTA (Denton County Transportation Authority). They said that E. McKinney was operated by TXDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) and they would have to contact them. So they had a meeting and they said they would let me know what happened but I really never heard back. Months have gone by and as previous posts stated, I’m losing my vision pretty rapidly and therefore having more anxiety over this street cross and more difficulty.
So I called Guide Dogs for the Blind and they said that I absolutely shouldn’t really be crossing there. But I don’t have a choice. So they told me to keep bugging DCTA. So I called back and spoke with the same lady I did before and she said that she has been working on it every since we last talked, had several meetings, and TXDOT has said they will put in a crosswalk across from my apartment complex and possibly a push button, but they didn’t know who was going to be paying for it. She then went on to discuss how DCTA doesn’t really have the funds and apparently TXDOT doesn’t either. That seems very strange to me. But she said that she didn’t know anything about the crossing outside of my work. She said that they probably weren’t going to be able to put a crosswalk there because of some law about being so close to a lighted intersection (but it’s really not that close at all). She did say that they might be able to move the bus stop slightly so that they could make it on even pavement as they could pour more concrete there to make it an even surface. We wouldn’t have to wait on a slanted grassy hill or the side of the road (literally). This would be a help but isn’t as big of a deal to me as a safe way to cross. Now, seeing as I do work for a state agency that helps people with disabilities, and a lot of them do depend on the bus and use wheelchairs and other mobility devices, this will be great to have an even surface for them.. but they too have to do this “Frogger” thing crossing the street so we really need to figure out how to make this happen.
My representative from DCTA said that she will continue to follow up and keep me updated. I believe that she will follow up but she said it could be a few more months before any action is taken. Another suggestion she had was that I take the local paratransit service. This costs something like $2.50 per way, so it would be $5 or more daily – for me to literally take a 5 minute bus ride. I would have to call the night before each time and verify the time and would have an extended window that I would have to be ready in. I’m not okay with that.
I really shouldn’t be crossing this street at all, and to wait a few more months? Oh boy. I decided to take it into my own hands a bit and write an email with a request and also file a complaint to TXDOT about these two unsafe crossings. I haven’t heard back yet but I plan to follow up with a phone call and a written letter. I’m going to fight the good fight because this is absolutely ridiculous, not only for me but for everybody else. Sighted people even have trouble crossing this street!
I’m struggling with my vision loss lately. I’ve been a lot more anxious and a lot more depressed. But I’m hanging in there. A lot of people have suggestions for me that I, quite honestly, don’t want to hear. But I was talking to my boyfriend about this last night and he said two things 1) Use my voice and 2) Be the squeaky wheel. My wonderful boyfriend knows that I am huge on advocating and I absolutely love to blog. So he suggested I blog about it as well as contact the local news authorities. I plan to do that soon. I will also continue to follow up on a weekly basis with TXDOT until we figure this out. I have already waited months, I shouldn’t have to wait several more months. Really, this shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re going to have a bus stop in the middle of nowhere, it is not acceptable that someone has to A) Be a Frogger and run across the road, or 2) Run literally ON the side of the road or 3) Run through a grassy hill full of six million ant piles, just to get to the bus stop. Unacceptable.
The video below was taken after we crossed the street. You can see we literally wait on the side of the road or in grass and about piles. This was actually when traffic was pretty slow.