How to Act Like an American (Part IV)


(Continued from July 21)

I got Frank Kobliski, executive director of Centro, to come to Public Transportation Advisory Council meetings at ARISE.  At the first meeting Frank attended, he learned that Linda McKeown, manager of Call-a-Bus (CAB), had a standing policy that people using power wheelchairs could not ride CAB; they had to take the big bus.  This is absolutely insane.  Paratransit was created for just such people!  And why was Linda denying people with power wheelchairs the use of paratransit?  Her stated reason was “I’ve seen people in power wheelchairs outside in my neighborhood in all kinds of weather.”

One interesting side-fact is that anyone who takes a power wheelchair outside in rain or snow negates the warranty on an $8000 wheelchair that Medicare will only replace once every five years.  But what the heck does the manager of CAB care?  She has power, not to mention a car!  And she delights in using her power to deny things to disabled people.  There are Christians and/or compassionate people who think you should help people who are in need.  Linda McKeown is not one of them.

At the next monthly meeting at ARISE, Linda is not present, and Frank Kobliski tells us that we will never again be told that people in power wheelchairs cannot use Call-a-Bus.  However, when I ask him to notify the people with power wheelchairs who have been denied service, he refuses, saying they can re-apply.  Why would they re-apply if they don’t know the rules have been changed?  Getting rejected is something disabled people experience too often, and don’t want to have repeated.

Linda no longer goes to the monthly meetings that she has attended for three years.  She has been replaced by the executive director.  At some point I am advised that her job title has been changed.  McKeown’s job function remains the same, however her position has been shifted, apparently so that she will now be under the supervision of the director of Operations.  No public mention is made of this but, as manager of Call-a-Bus, apparently all she had to do was file reports that nobody read.  Now she’s got a boss.

Another issue between disabled riders and the management of Call-a-Bus is that rides are being approved or denied based on medical diagnoses, as interpreted by non-medical personnel.  According to the FTA regulations, as related to me by the wonderful David Knight, paratransit eligibility is explicitly not allowed to use medical diagnoses; it is to use a functional assessment.

Kobliski repeatedly tells McKeown to provide the transportation committee with a copy of the list of medical diagnoses they use.  She repeatedly comes up with excuses for not doing it.  He gets mad and says that even if she has to have someone hand-copy the entire list off the computer, she is to produce it for the committee.  Finally, we get the list and I lead the committee on a preliminary yes/no vote of each item on the list.

There are about two hundred items, ranging from “cerebral palsy” to “infirm.”  They cover an enormous range of abilities and disabilities, and they are being used by telephone clerks with no medical training to decide who does and doesn’t ride the bus.  What CAB is supposed to be using is a functional assessments:  Can the applicant climb three steps?  Walk a block?  Stand for five minutes?

At this point, a new player comes on the field:  Betty Petrie, special assistant to the executive director.  Apparently one of her special jobs is to submit applications for awards that will make her boss look good.  Another one of her tasks becomes developing a new list of criteria for eligibility for Call-a-Bus.  The Public Transportation Advisory Council was moving forward just fine on doing this, but the system, in the form of Frank Kobliski, takes the task away from the people and assigns it to Petrie.

Betty Petrie’s background is in the Veterans Administration hospital system in New England; in short, she comes from the medical model.  My current position regarding the medical model is:  fuck it.  Why are rich, arrogant physicians acting as gatekeepers to services for the people???  Betty Petrie stands in my living room and states that she really thinks that all disabled people should travel with aides.  Maybe we really should have some doctors around; I nearly have a cardiac event.

The purpose of paratransit is to enable disabled people to travel safely and easily throughout the community.  Independently.  Alone.  Without babysitters.  And the executive director’s special assistant’s solution to Call-a-Bus problems is not to let us on the bus without a babysitter.  In the first place, it is profoundly insulting.  We are disabled, not stupid.  We do not need to travel with caretakers.  Second, it is financially impossible.

The first thing that happens when you become disabled is you cease to be able to work at your normal job.  Therefore the second thing that happens is you become poor.  Once you become poor you then become dependent on Medicaid for home health care.  Medicaid does not pay for aides to ride on buses and go to concerts just so the bus company doesn’t have to deal with its riders!  Which is what it is all about:  Centro wants to treat disabled people like cartons of canned goods, not like human beings.  If Centro can turn us into objects, instead of people, then it will be easy for them to figure out how to handle us—particularly people in wheelchairs, whom they do not view as people, but as wheelchairs.

It is the job of paratransit drivers to learn how to work with disabled people, not to hire aides to do it for them.  Aides cost money.  The money will be charged back to the taxpayer, who will end up paying for both the aide and the do-nothing driver.  And here’s a strange little wrinkle in the Call-a-Bus driver story:  about half the drivers do not work for Centro.  They wear Centro uniforms, drive Centro buses, and work off Centro manifests, but they are paid by PEACE, Inc.  And they are paid less than Centro drivers and get little or nothing in the way of paid holidays, insurance benefits, and so forth.

Why are non-union workers driving paratransit buses?  I’ve heard several explanations, but the most accurate one seems to be this:  when Centro created Call-a-Bus, union drivers refused to drive disabled people.  Now, after years of discrimination, Kobliski keeps the PEACE drivers because they’re cheaper than his union people.  And why do CAB/PEACE drivers accept the inequality?  Why don’t they organize and fight for equal pay?  One of the reasons might be that the drivers don’t know each other and can’t form a group.  Linda McKeown never has meetings or events for the Call-a-Bus drivers; Centro does have them for line bus drivers.  (To be continued)

How to Act Like an American (Part IV)

(Continued from July 21)

I got Frank Kobliski, executive director of Centro, to come to Public Transportation Advisory Council meetings at ARISE.  At the first meeting Frank attended, he learned that Linda McKeown, manager of Call-a-Bus (CAB), had a standing policy that people using power wheelchairs could not ride CAB; they had to take the big bus.  This is absolutely insane.  Paratransit was created for just such people!  And why was Linda denying people with power wheelchairs the use of paratransit?  Her stated reason was “I’ve seen people in power wheelchairs outside in my neighborhood in all kinds of weather.”

One interesting side-fact is that anyone who takes a power wheelchair outside in rain or snow negates the warranty on an $8000 wheelchair that Medicare will only replace once every five years.  But what the heck does the manager of CAB care?  She has power, not to mention a car!  And she delights in using her power to deny things to disabled people.  There are Christians and/or compassionate people who think you should help people who are in need.  Linda McKeown is not one of them.

At the next monthly meeting at ARISE, Linda is not present, and Frank Kobliski tells us that we will never again be told that people in power wheelchairs cannot use Call-a-Bus.  However, when I ask him to notify the people with power wheelchairs who have been denied service, he refuses, saying they can re-apply.  Why would they re-apply if they don’t know the rules have been changed?  Getting rejected is something disabled people experience too often, and don’t want to have repeated.

Linda no longer goes to the monthly meetings that she has attended for three years.  She has been replaced by the executive director.  At some point I am advised that her job title has been changed.  McKeown’s job function remains the same, however her position has been shifted, apparently so that she will now be under the supervision of the director of Operations.  No public mention is made of this but, as manager of Call-a-Bus, apparently all she had to do was file reports that nobody read.  Now she’s got a boss.

Another issue between disabled riders and the management of Call-a-Bus is that rides are being approved or denied based on medical diagnoses, as interpreted by non-medical personnel.  According to the FTA regulations, as related to me by the wonderful David Knight, paratransit eligibility is explicitly not allowed to use medical diagnoses; it is to use a functional assessment.

Kobliski repeatedly tells McKeown to provide the transportation committee with a copy of the list of medical diagnoses they use.  She repeatedly comes up with excuses for not doing it.  He gets mad and says that even if she has to have someone hand-copy the entire list off the computer, she is to produce it for the committee.  Finally, we get the list and I lead the committee on a preliminary yes/no vote of each item on the list.

There are about two hundred items, ranging from “cerebral palsy” to “infirm.”  They cover an enormous range of abilities and disabilities, and they are being used by telephone clerks with no medical training to decide who does and doesn’t ride the bus.  What CAB is supposed to be using is a functional assessments:  Can the applicant climb three steps?  Walk a block?  Stand for five minutes?

At this point, a new player comes on the field:  Betty Petrie, special assistant to the executive director.  Apparently one of her special jobs is to submit applications for awards that will make her boss look good.  Another one of her tasks becomes developing a new list of criteria for eligibility for Call-a-Bus.  The Public Transportation Advisory Council was moving forward just fine on doing this, but the system, in the form of Frank Kobliski, takes the task away from the people and assigns it to Petrie.

Betty Petrie’s background is in the Veterans Administration hospital system in New England; in short, she comes from the medical model.  My current position regarding the medical model is:  fuck it.  Why are rich, arrogant physicians acting as gatekeepers to services for the people???  Betty Petrie stands in my living room and states that she really thinks that all disabled people should travel with aides.  Maybe we really should have some doctors around; I nearly have a cardiac event.

The purpose of paratransit is to enable disabled people to travel safely and easily throughout the community.  Independently.  Alone.  Without babysitters.  And the executive director’s special assistant’s solution to Call-a-Bus problems is not to let us on the bus without a babysitter.  In the first place, it is profoundly insulting.  We are disabled, not stupid.  We do not need to travel with caretakers.  Second, it is financially impossible.

The first thing that happens when you become disabled is you cease to be able to work at your normal job.  Therefore the second thing that happens is you become poor.  Once you become poor then you become dependent on Medicaid for home health care.  Medicaid does not pay for aides to ride on buses and go to concerts just so the bus company doesn’t have to deal with its riders!  Which is what it is all about:  Centro wants to treat disabled people like cartons of canned goods, not like human beings.  If Centro can turn us into objects, instead of people, then it will be easy for them to figure out how to handle us—particularly people in wheelchairs, whom they do not view as people, but as wheelchairs.

It is the job of paratransit drivers to learn how to work with disabled people, not to hire aides to do it for them.  Aides cost money.  The money will be charged back to the taxpayer, who will end up paying for both the aide and the do-nothing driver.  And here’s a strange little wrinkle in the Call-a-Bus driver story:  about half the drivers do not work for Centro.  They wear Centro uniforms, drive Centro buses, and work off Centro manifests, but they are paid by PEACE, Inc.  And they are paid less than Centro drivers and get little or nothing in the way of paid holidays, insurance benefits, and so forth.

Why are non-union workers driving paratransit buses?  I’ve heard several explanations, but the most accurate one seems to be this:  when Centro created Call-a-Bus, union drivers refused to drive disabled people.  Now, after years of discrimination, Kobliski keeps the PEACE drivers because they’re cheaper than his union people.  And why do CAB/PEACE drivers accept the inequality?  Why don’t they organize and fight for equal pay?  One of the reasons might be that the drivers don’t know each other and can’t form a group.  Linda McKeown never has meetings or events for the Call-a-Bus drivers; Centro does have them for line bus drivers.  (To be continued)

How to Act Like an American (Part IV)

(Continued from July 21)

I got Frank Kobliski, executive director of Centro, to come to Public Transportation Advisory Council meetings at ARISE.  At the first meeting Frank attended, he learned that Linda McKeown, manager of Call-a-Bus (CAB), had a standing policy that people using power wheelchairs could not ride CAB; they had to take the big bus.  This is absolutely insane.  Paratransit was created for just such people!  And why was Linda denying people with power wheelchairs the use of paratransit?  Her stated reason was “I’ve seen people in power wheelchairs outside in my neighborhood in all kinds of weather.”

One interesting side-fact is that anyone who takes a power wheelchair outside in rain or snow negates the warranty on an $8000 wheelchair that Medicare will only replace once every five years.  But what the heck does the manager of CAB care?  She has power, not to mention a car!  And she delights in using her power to deny things to disabled people.  There are Christians and/or compassionate people who think you should help people who are in need.  Linda McKeown is not one of them.

At the next monthly meeting at ARISE, Linda is not present, and Frank Kobliski tells us that we will never again be told that people in power wheelchairs cannot use Call-a-Bus.  However, when I ask him to notify the people with power wheelchairs who have been denied service, he refuses, saying they can re-apply.  Why would they re-apply if they don’t know the rules have been changed?  Getting rejected is something disabled people experience too often, and don’t want to have repeated.

Linda no longer goes to the monthly meetings that she has attended for three years.  She has been replaced by the executive director.  At some point I am advised that her job title has been changed.  McKeown’s job function remains the same, however her position has been shifted, apparently so that she will now be under the supervision of the director of Operations.  No public mention is made of this but, as manager of Call-a-Bus, apparently all she had to do was file reports that nobody read.  Now she’s got a boss.

Another issue between disabled riders and the management of Call-a-Bus is that rides are being approved or denied based on medical diagnoses, as interpreted by non-medical personnel.  According to the FTA regulations, as related to me by the wonderful David Knight, paratransit eligibility is explicitly not allowed to use medical diagnoses; it is to use a functional assessment.

Kobliski repeatedly tells McKeown to provide the transportation committee with a copy of the list of medical diagnoses they use.  She repeatedly comes up with excuses for not doing it.  He gets mad and says that even if she has to have someone hand-copy the entire list off the computer, she is to produce it for the committee.  Finally, we get the list and I lead the committee on a preliminary yes/no vote of each item on the list.

There are about two hundred items, ranging from “cerebral palsy” to “infirm.”  They cover an enormous range of abilities and disabilities, and they are being used by telephone clerks with no medical training to decide who does and doesn’t ride the bus.  What CAB is supposed to be using is a functional assessments:  Can the applicant climb three steps?  Walk a block?  Stand for five minutes?

At this point, a new player comes on the field:  Betty Petrie, special assistant to the executive director.  Apparently one of her special jobs is to submit applications for awards that will make her boss look good.  Another one of her tasks becomes developing a new list of criteria for eligibility for Call-a-Bus.  The Public Transportation Advisory Council was moving forward just fine on doing this, but the system, in the form of Frank Kobliski, takes the task away from the people and assigns it to Petrie.

Betty Petrie’s background is in the Veterans Administration hospital system in New England; in short, she comes from the medical model.  My current position regarding the medical model is:  fuck it.  Why are rich, arrogant physicians acting as gatekeepers to services for the people???  Betty Petrie stands in my living room and states that she really thinks that all disabled people should travel with aides.  Maybe we really should have some doctors around; I nearly have a cardiac event.

The purpose of paratransit is to enable disabled people to travel safely and easily throughout the community.  Independently.  Alone.  Without babysitters.  And the executive director’s special assistant’s solution to Call-a-Bus problems is not to let us on the bus without a babysitter.  In the first place, it is profoundly insulting.  We are disabled, not stupid.  We do not need to travel with caretakers.  Second, it is financially impossible.

The first thing that happens when you become disabled is you cease to be able to work at your normal job.  Therefore the second thing that happens is you become poor.  Once you become poor then you become dependent on Medicaid for home health care.  Medicaid does not pay for aides to ride on buses and go to concerts just so the bus company doesn’t have to deal with its riders!  Which is what it is all about:  Centro wants to treat disabled people like cartons of canned goods, not like human beings.  If Centro can turn us into objects, instead of people, then it will be easy for them to figure out how to handle us—particularly people in wheelchairs, whom they do not view as people, but as wheelchairs.

It is the job of paratransit drivers to learn how to work with disabled people, not to hire aides to do it for them.  Aides cost money.  The money will be charged back to the taxpayer, who will end up paying for both the aide and the do-nothing driver.  And here’s a strange little wrinkle in the Call-a-Bus driver story:  about half the drivers do not work for Centro.  They wear Centro uniforms, drive Centro buses, and work off Centro manifests, but they are paid by PEACE, Inc.  And they are paid less than Centro drivers and get little or nothing in the way of paid holidays, insurance benefits, and so forth.

Why are non-union workers driving paratransit buses?  I’ve heard several explanations, but the most accurate one seems to be this:  when Centro created Call-a-Bus, union drivers refused to drive disabled people.  Now, after years of discrimination, Kobliski keeps the PEACE drivers because they’re cheaper than his union people.  And why do CAB/PEACE drivers accept the inequality?  Why don’t they organize and fight for equal pay?  One of the reasons might be that the drivers don’t know each other and can’t form a group.  Linda McKeown never has meetings or events for the Call-a-Bus drivers; Centro does have them for line bus drivers.  (To be continued)

How to Act Like an American (Part IV)

(Continued from July 21)

I got Frank Kobliski, executive director of Centro, to come to Public Transportation Advisory Council meetings at ARISE.  At the first meeting Frank attended, he learned that Linda McKeown, manager of Call-a-Bus (CAB), had a standing policy that people using power wheelchairs could not ride CAB; they had to take the big bus.  This is absolutely insane.  Paratransit was created for just such people!  And why was Linda denying people with power wheelchairs the use of paratransit?  Her stated reason was “I’ve seen people in power wheelchairs outside in my neighborhood in all kinds of weather.”

One interesting side-fact is that anyone who takes a power wheelchair outside in rain or snow negates the warranty on an $8000 wheelchair that Medicare will only replace once every five years.  But what the heck does the manager of CAB care?  She has power, not to mention a car!  And she delights in using her power to deny things to disabled people.  There are Christians and/or compassionate people who think you should help people who are in need.  Linda McKeown is not one of them.

At the next monthly meeting at ARISE, Linda is not present, and Frank Kobliski tells us that we will never again be told that people in power wheelchairs cannot use Call-a-Bus.  However, when I ask him to notify the people with power wheelchairs who have been denied service, he refuses, saying they can re-apply.  Why would they re-apply if they don’t know the rules have been changed?  Getting rejected is something disabled people experience too often, and don’t want to have repeated.

Linda no longer goes to the monthly meetings that she has attended for three years.  She has been replaced by the executive director.  At some point I am advised that her job title has been changed.  McKeown’s job function remains the same, however her position has been shifted, apparently so that she will now be under the supervision of the director of Operations.  No public mention is made of this but, as manager of Call-a-Bus, apparently all she had to do was file reports that nobody read.  Now she’s got a boss.

Another issue between disabled riders and the management of Call-a-Bus is that rides are being approved or denied based on medical diagnoses, as interpreted by non-medical personnel.  According to the FTA regulations, as related to me by the wonderful David Knight, paratransit eligibility is explicitly not allowed to use medical diagnoses; it is to use a functional assessment.

Kobliski repeatedly tells McKeown to provide the transportation committee with a copy of the list of medical diagnoses they use.  She repeatedly comes up with excuses for not doing it.  He gets mad and says that even if she has to have someone hand-copy the entire list off the computer, she is to produce it for the committee.  Finally, we get the list and I lead the committee on a preliminary yes/no vote of each item on the list.

There are about two hundred items, ranging from “cerebral palsy” to “infirm.”  They cover an enormous range of abilities and disabilities, and they are being used by telephone clerks with no medical training to decide who does and doesn’t ride the bus.  What CAB is supposed to be using is a functional assessments:  Can the applicant climb three steps?  Walk a block?  Stand for five minutes?

At this point, a new player comes on the field:  Betty Petrie, special assistant to the executive director.  Apparently one of her special jobs is to submit applications for awards that will make her boss look good.  Another one of her tasks becomes developing a new list of criteria for eligibility for Call-a-Bus.  The Public Transportation Advisory Council was moving forward just fine on doing this, but the system, in the form of Frank Kobliski, takes the task away from the people and assigns it to Petrie.

Betty Petrie’s background is in the Veterans Administration hospital system in New England; in short, she comes from the medical model.  My current position regarding the medical model is:  fuck it.  Why are rich, arrogant physicians acting as gatekeepers to services for the people???  Betty Petrie stands in my living room and states that she really thinks that all disabled people should travel with aides.  Maybe we really should have some doctors around; I nearly have a cardiac event.

The purpose of paratransit is to enable disabled people to travel safely and easily throughout the community.  Independently.  Alone.  Without babysitters.  And the executive director’s special assistant’s solution to Call-a-Bus problems is not to let us on the bus without a babysitter.  In the first place, it is profoundly insulting.  We are disabled, not stupid.  We do not need to travel with caretakers.  Second, it is financially impossible.

The first thing that happens when you become disabled is you cease to be able to work at your normal job.  Therefore the second thing that happens is you become poor.  Once you become poor then you become dependent on Medicaid for home health care.  Medicaid does not pay for aides to ride on buses and go to concerts just so the bus company doesn’t have to deal with its riders!  Which is what it is all about:  Centro wants to treat disabled people like cartons of canned goods, not like human beings.  If Centro can turn us into objects, instead of people, then it will be easy for them to figure out how to handle us—particularly people in wheelchairs, whom they do not view as people, but as wheelchairs.

It is the job of paratransit drivers to learn how to work with disabled people, not to hire aides to do it for them.  Aides cost money.  The money will be charged back to the taxpayer, who will end up paying for both the aide and the do-nothing driver.  And here’s a strange little wrinkle in the Call-a-Bus driver story:  about half the drivers do not work for Centro.  They wear Centro uniforms, drive Centro buses, and work off Centro manifests, but they are paid by PEACE, Inc.  And they are paid less than Centro drivers and get little or nothing in the way of paid holidays, insurance benefits, and so forth.

Why are non-union workers driving paratransit buses?  I’ve heard several explanations, but the most accurate one seems to be this:  when Centro created Call-a-Bus, union drivers refused to drive disabled people.  Now, after years of discrimination, Kobliski keeps the PEACE drivers because they’re cheaper than his union people.  And why do CAB/PEACE drivers accept the inequality?  Why don’t they organize and fight for equal pay?  One of the reasons might be that the drivers don’t know each other and can’t form a group.  Linda McKeown never has meetings or events for the Call-a-Bus drivers; Centro does have them for line bus drivers.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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2 Responses to How to Act Like an American (Part IV)

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