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Friday, September 9, 2011

Congressional Record Reflects IMPRUVE's Visit to Washington, Charles Idol Jr's Humanitarian Rescue of PWDs, and Need to Improve Paratransit

IMPRUVE thanks Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky for paying tribute to Charles Idol Jr. We honored him and Tim Jay Haynes with awards at a ceremony on August 5, 2011 at AIMMC (Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center) Olson Auditorium 836 W. Wellington Chicago IL 60657
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[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.

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