by Carl Jarvis
If it were not for some outspoken, brave spokespersons in the field of work for the disabled, we, and our needs, would be ignored. Especially we blind people. We truly are the “invisible minority.” But we will only be victims if we continue to act like victims. Fortunately, we belong to a strong national organization that knows the value of building strong state organizations and extending its roots deep into the towns and rural communities where most of us live.
As one who lived nearly 60 years in the metropolitan Seattle sprawl, and escaped to live for the past 25 years as a contented country bumpkin, I fully understand the need for reliable, inexpensive transportation. I am equally aware of the need for taxi drivers to earn a living wage. And, just for the record, my sympathies are mostly with the cabbies, since I am also a member of the working class. But regardless of where we come from, can we agree that the solution is not one of solving the transportation needs of the disabled by undercompensating the thousands of drivers who are themselves feeling a financial crisis?
Perhaps the Lyft board of directors believed that there were large numbers of retired people just looking for something to do to while away their retirement years. And I’m sure such people do exist. But far and away are those people who have been retired or displaced, but still need additional income to make ends meet.
As often happens with desperate people, they hear what they want to hear. Lyft made a good sales pitch, and many folks, with their backs to the wall, bought it as the solution to their financial problems.
While we might debate how matters came to the present crisis, the fact is that the drivers learned that their expectations were unfounded. They learned the difference between employees and contractors the hard way. Sadly, there is another old adage that they had to revisit. It goes, “Them what’s got, gits.” While the drivers are struggling to make ends meet as costs for doing business rise, the Lyft board members are busy dividing up millions of dollars among themselves.
It is not my purpose in this article to debate whether this is fair. Obviously the board members believe it to be their just returns. But my concern is why it always seems to come down to the needy being pitted against the downtrodden. In my mind, we need to try another approach to solving the transportation needs of the disabled. It’s obvious that the for-profit approach is running into rough seas, the same as the established taxi services have experienced.
By way of setting up my “solution” so you all buy in, I would point out that we are all taxpayers. Whether we pay income taxes or not, each time we spend money, some of it finds its way back to our government. Secondly, that government is our government, too. Our government is set in place in order to meet certain needs that we cannot provide on an individual basis. We pay for public schools, fire and police protection, public utilities, and on and on, whether we use them or not. We, the disabled people, have paid a share of the public services, for the good of all citizens.
Therefore, as full participating citizens, should we not have the same access to public transportation as is afforded all able-bodied citizens? We disabled folk did not create a society dependent on a need for personal transportation. We disabled citizens want to be full participating members in our work force, enabling ourselves the ability to earn a decent living and to pay our own way. In order to do this, we need low-cost public transportation, available when we need it, to take us where we need to go in a timely way. And there is only one way to cover such a cost: government subsidy. A door-to-door transportation service for disabled citizens, paid by all of us, in order to ensure that all of us are able to exercise our right to be first-class citizens.