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Monday, August 8, 2011

Charles Idol Honored and IMPRUVE Recognized in Congressional Record


[Page: E1457] GPO's PDF
•Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Mr. Speaker, many of our constituents come to Washington, D.C. to meet with their elected officials, to gather for conferences and to attend events. It's not always easy to do--they have to find the funds, take time off from work and often arrange alternative care-giving arrangements for family members. For people with disabilities, there is another obstacle--a transportation system that is often inaccessible because of inadequate infrastructure, poor design or breakdowns.
•Today, I want to describe to my colleagues the experience of some Chicagoans who worked hard to surmount those barriers and to recognize Mr. Charles Idol, manager of Clyde's restaurant in Chinatown, who came to their rescue.
•This spring, six Chicago residents traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Paratransit Memorial Rally. It wasn't easy for them to get from Chicago to Washington but they were determined to be here to speak out for improved paratransit policies. Of the six persons, one is a volunteer from IMPRUVE (the Independent Movement of Paratransit Riders for Unity, Vehicles, Equality) and five are disabled. IMPRUVE is a national organization based in Chicago committed to meeting the transportation needs of people with disabilities. Dr. Ayo Maat, my constituent and President of IMPRUVE, organized the trip and arranged meetings with members of the Illinois delegation, including my office, to discuss paratransit solutions.
•Once in Washington, those six Chicagoans were confronted by a situation that underscores the need for improved paratransit policies. The group decided to have dinner in Chinatown and wound up stranded after their meal because there was no accessible transportation back to their hotel. For over two and a half hours, the group tried to find accessible transportation. They called taxi services, Metro Access, the police department and 911 and no one could help them. Despite the fact that the three in wheelchairs could not ride in a regular taxi, their situation was not considered an emergency. One person needed insulin, another needed her epilepsy medicine, yet they were unable to get back to their hotel room because there was no available accessible transportation in our Nation's Capital.
•Fortunately, they found Mr. Idol. Dr. Maat wrote to tell me of his generosity, ``Angels do exist and they walk among us as ordinary people with extremely big hearts and compassion and love.'' Mr. Idol worked to find a solution for these six stranded strangers in Chinatown, keeping his restaurant open to them while trying to find accessible transportation. When that attempt failed, he paid for a nearby hotel room for the three persons in wheelchairs who could not ride a regular taxi and sent those who could back to their original hotel so that they could retrieve needed wheelchair batteries and medicine. Meeting Mr. Idol helped avert a possible catastrophe.
•But it is unacceptable that people with disabilities have to rely on the kindness of strangers instead of being able to depend on a safe, available and accessible transportation system. The D.C. metropolitan area has experienced paratransit ridership growth of more than 10 percent per year from 2006 through 2009, a trend that is expected to continue. Here in our Nation's Capital and throughout the country, we still have a long way to go to make sure that growing needs are met. We have to make improvements in the infrastructure and availability of paratransit so that people with disabilities are able to travel freely--to go to work and school, visit their friends, and come to Congress to make their voices heard.
•Again, I want to thank Mr. Idol and I want to thank Dr. Maat and IMPRUVE for their leadership and commitment to paratransit.

We thank Congresswoman Schakowsky for standing up for paratransit riders and honoring Charles, Idol Jr. with this tribute. We thank the 6 members whom Mr. Idol rescued, including our volunteer Tim Haynes who worked tirelessly to provide personal assistance to Tyquan Baxter and Cecelia Jackson for the entire trip, and emergency assistance to Dr. Maat, Patricia Baxter, Genevarenee Baxter, Tyquan Baxter and Cecelia Jackson while they were stranded, recovering battery chargers and cell phone chargers and medicines to those who needed them thanks to the generosity of Mr. Idol ion paying his taxi costs back and forth between hotels (as he did not require an accessible taxi, and consoling Tyquan when his he was worried or feeling anxiety about his mother being stranded and the group missing our tour of the Capitol due to paratransit being late or going in the wrong direction and quite a distance away when the Capitol was just across the street from Congressional offices.

We also thank Joanne Tillis who stayed behind at the Hilton on May 26 and was able to assist our volunteer Tim Haynes in getting battery charger for Cecelia to take to the Monaco Hotel and attended meeting with Senator Kirk's office on the Capitol.

Despite this, the end result was proof of God's care and love through the service we received at Hilton Garden Inn, Hotel Monaco, Clyde's of Gallery Place, the Congressional staff of Rep. Schakowsky and the cordiality of Sen. Kirk's staff who both promised to work with IMPRUVE and plan a Transit Summit with Sen. Durbin's staff, and the meetings given us by Sen. Durbin's staff (even though no promises were made) and by Rep. Bobby Rush's staff (though promises to honor Charles Idol Jr. and work with Rep. Schakowsky on a Transit Summit for paratransit are still pending) are appreciated.

We did not yet succeed in getting meetings with the President neither his special advisor to disability policy Kareem Dale regarding the Soular Car Project with green employment, nanotechnology, and green accessible housing, but we are still working on it.

Like the kangaroo, we move forward.

Like the oak, we bend, but do not break.

Like my namesake, I am Maat and I bring order to chaos.

Light to the disability community, the Idol family, the paratransit providers and service boards, and drivers. Don't forget to support our fundraisers, buy our tee shirt, send in names of paratransit riders who have passed away since 2010 and support us when we return May 2012 for another National Paratransit Peoples Movement Assembly Memorial Rally for paratransit riders who have passed away and desired a higher quality of life and affordable and green paratransit for all who need it regardless of location, age, gender, purpose of using, or income and better vehicles with better suspension systems across the board, and choice.

I like this saying adapted from my friend in service - Queen Hanah in Tallahassee:
"We are blessed and highly favored."

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