As a rule, every Cherriots bus is equipped with a boarding ramp and a power-lift, meeting ADA requirements and providing access for mobility-challenged commuters. However many Cherriots patrons are using mobility equipment which is too large and unwieldy to safely use the system without help and some practice.
This is a problem in Keizer, which has a large contingent of riders who require mobility equipment, and according to the city’s representative on the Cherriots board, Ramiro Navarro, the organization is limited in what they can do to help.
Navarro said mobility devices are not all alike. Some of them have four or even six wheels, providing a tight turn radius as well as a slim profile, making them perfect for the Cherriots lifts. Many others, however, come with three wheels and large baskets in the front or back, which is problematic when trying to use an automated lift on a transit bus.
“We’re trying to support people in different modes of mobility,” said Navarro. “One issue that we see a lot is that it’s typically easier for people in wheelchairs with a tight turn radius to board our buses, whereas the three-wheeled motorized chairs are somewhat more dangerous.”
He said they were approaching the problem from two angles. Firstly, the board is looking at ways to influence insurance companies to provide devices that will better accommodate the Cherriots system specifications.
“We have policy advisors we work with who can bring this up to insurance providers,” he said.
But while they can make suggestions, he said, they don’t have any real leverage over what those companies provide their clients.
The second approach is to offer to come out and help riders in the three-wheeled chairs learn the best techniques for getting safely on and off the bus, and to let them practice a few times. Navarro said this mobility services team, called “Travel Training,” will come out and help free of charge.
“If an individual is in a wheelchair for the first time and they’re uncomfortable riding Cherriots because they just don’t know how to use the lifts, our team will come out and meet them downtown and help them learn how to board in a safe manner,” he said.
Navarro attended one of those training sessions with an individual in one of those three-wheeled devices, and he said it was enlightening.
“The individual was nervous at first, but by the end he could see how much better his chair would fit without the big basket in the front and with the turning radius of a four-wheeled device,” he said.
Travel Training is available to any Cherriots patron, and it’s not only for the mobility-challenged. Navarro said they will even come out and show people the proper way to mount a bicycle on the bus.
Patrons can call the Cherriots line or email [email protected] to schedule the training.