My name is Stephen Gift. I have Cerebral Palsy and I am confined to a wheelchair as a result of my disability. I have lived, went to school, and worked in Warsaw the majority of my life. Up until a couple of years ago, I worked at McDonald’s on Detroit Street when it became apparent that due to what I will call side effects of my disability, it got to the point that I could no longer work and I filed for disability benefits for the first time ever in my life after working for more than 20 years.
I require a wheelchair-accessible vehicle as it is very difficult and sometimes impossible to transfer into a regular vehicle. I do not drive because the cost of a modified vehicle and drivers’ training is far too expensive.
So I must rely on public transit options to get around. Fast Cab, the taxi company in town, offers no accessible options. I previously used Fast Cab almost exclusively but I am no longer able to get in and out of the taxi. When I asked about them getting accessible options it just has been ignored. This is sad because I have spent a lot of money over the years with them, but they are a private business so they can choose who they want to serve.
That leaves KABS (Kosciusko Area Bus Service), the “public transit” option in town; I put public transit in quotes because they do not or loosely follow some of the basic state and federal rules regarding para-transit services for people with disabilities.
The biggest issue however is no service at night and on the weekends, so for people like me we are forced to miss out on town events, as well as events with friends and family.
Take out the disability factor for just a second and look at it from a purely economic standpoint. A large portion of our community work in the service-based restaurant/retail sector and most of those jobs are at or near minimum wage. At night and on weekends KABS does not operate, so for folks that work in those industries they are forced to use a taxi (which is as much as $10 per one-way trip) on days and times the bus does not operate. To some of you that may not seem like a lot, but the later part of the week and weekends are the busiest for these types of businesses. For an employee that brings home $250 per week, $20 per day for transportation is a huge chunk.
Warsaw is a very blessed community financially due in large part to the orthopedic industry, so for a community like Warsaw to have sub-standard public transportation is unacceptable. Warsaw should have top notch transportation options for all citizens no matter their economic class.
I grew up and went to school and graduated from Warsaw Community High School, and unless something changes soon, I may be forced to move to another community more friendly to people with disabilities.
For far too long the citizens of the lower and average income class have been ignored in this community. That is why I am voting for Ron Shoemaker on May 7th and I encourage you to do the same.
Stephen Gift II