Penny: And Chapter Six talks about public wheels, buses, trains, subways, ferries, airplanes and paratransit.

We have objectives for Chapter Six for travelers to explore these different kinds of transportation options to compare the cost and scheduling of those, to learn about paratransit. So paratransit is transportation that's available for those who can't ride the fixed route transportation, such as the bus or the subway, and it's available under the Americans with Disability Act. And in many communities you have to go through a qualification process even if you have a significant visual impairment. So we have information for travelers to explore paratransit options in their community.

Throughout Finding Wheels, we're writing for the traveler, the person who's a teen or in their early twenties, but sometimes we want to talk to the families or professionals. So we have boxes that we label. Some are for families and professionals, some are just for families or some are just for professionals. But we talk in this particular box about how family members and professionals can support travelers by having families take different kinds of transportation, both for fun and educational purposes so that travelers get exposed to different types of travel.

So for example, a family where typically they go in the family vehicle once a month may choose to use an Uber or take a taxi or take the bus. And so that the traveler gets different kinds of transportation opportunities. Even if the traveler is not of an age to do travel on their own, they need to have opportunities to plan for travel, to pay for travel. So this is an opportunity for family members to be there for safety, um, and because we're going to the same location, but to let the traveler have the responsibility of using the app to schedule the Uber or figuring out what time we need to leave home to have enough time to walk to the bus stop, to get there in time, and then pay for the bus and be the one on the bus to decide when it's time to push the buzzer, to let the bus driver know that we want the next stop. We want to have an opportunity to talk to families and professionals. So we have these boxes throughout Finding Wheels. Not that travelers can't read them, but we just change kind of who we're talking to and we want to alert the reader to that.

There were some orientation and mobility specialists who were in a rural part of Arizona who had students that were ready for bus travel and learning about navigating through a city and numbering systems in a, in a city and those types of things. And these pictures are about 20 years old. So the deal was, we were pre-Internet folks, but the O and M instructors had the students each do their own bit of research and then on the appointed day they went around and picked up the students who didn't know each other. They have this nice hour a half van ride down to Phoenix, Arizona.

Meanwhile, as a nondriver, I took a cab to a stop for a shuttle. The shuttle went from Tucson a hundred miles up the road to the airport. Got off in the airport. Took another taxi to meet up with this group of young people and their O and M instructors. And so I got to be the role model and the photographer—which was great. Um, but we had this opportunity for these students who hadn't had experience traveling in a larger community to get together and plan this trip. A really nice side benefit in the bottom right corner, you see a picture of two middle school girls. Neither one of them had met another girl like themselves with a visual impairment.

So this, even though the focus was about orientation and mobility and transportation, there was this great social opportunity. And the girl, um, one of the girls is named Amanda. I mentioned her earlier and this is a video she made with me, Oh, probably about five or six years ago where she talks back on that experience. She says she was in high school, but she really was in eighth grade.

Amanda: Uh, I believe it was high school. We, um, my O and M instructor got together with a couple of other O and M people and we went on this trip up to a larger city where there was public transportation. And I had met, um, another girl my age with a vision impairment and both of us were kind of in the same boat at that time, kind of in a transition, trying to figure out where we were and, and how to use certain skills and all those things.

And, um, I remember that day pretty well because it was... There was so many new things. I was meeting new people. I became really good friends with this girl. It was the first time I've ever been on a, a bus in a big city, which was just a huge experience in and of itself. And then I remember we went and had lunch at the mall and it was a huge mall. It was bigger than one I've ever seen. And um, so that day it was fun just because there was so many new things and so many new people. And it was a real, it was a real eye opener to just be able to share something like that with another person around my age with a vision impairment as well.

Penny: So I really encourage you, as Amanda shared in this video, if you're in a more rural community that you find ways to bring your student into a more urban community. If you're in an urban community, that you find ways to bring your student into a city environment so that your student gets to travel in different types of environments. And the same thing with families that they can support their travel or their son, their daughter, their grandchild with trying out travel in new environments.

I really can't stress enough the importance of bringing travelers with visual impairments together to meet other travelers who are visually impaired. I know for my own self as a child with a visual impairment, I was the only one in my school who was visually impaired. But for two weeks in the summer I'm went to a camp for visually impaired kids and it was really good to be able to check in with other kids and find out what things were happening in their world, what were the same, what was different than what was happening in my world.

So bringing students together is, is just really valuable. And now we have tools like Zoom and Skype where you know, geography isn't an issue and you can bring your students together. They can jointly plan a trip, um, much more easily than these young people 20 years ago.

Paratransit, as I mentioned, is a service that's offered in communities if you're not able to use public transit. So one of the activities we have is for travelers to see if paratransit is an option for them. So downloading the application, looking at the requirements, looking at the community that they might want to go to and what the requirements are. Will my paratransit, if it gets to the border of my town, will take me into the next town?

In Phoenix, Arizona, that's a big issue. Um, because Phoenix is actually made up of central Phoenix, but then a bunch of other communities around it and some of the paratransit companies won't cross town lines. So I get to a certain point then, well wait, but Walmart's another two miles down the road. You won't take me there? You know, you'll take me the first five miles, but then you're done because you can't cross the street? So your traveler needs to understand about paratransit and how that all works.

When you're taking public wheels, buses, trains, subways, like everything else, safety is really important. So a year ago January, I was in Washington DC for a conference and a girlfriend from New Jersey came down for her, was her birthday weekend. I said, come me, maybe DC, we'll go to all the Smithsonians and then the government shut down. Um, but we went down to take the Metro the first time and I got so excited because at the edge of the platform, not only did they have a texture but they have these lights and so the lights were off. As the train was approaching, the light started to blink. And I just thought that was the greatest thing. And I'm taking pictures of my friend is like, you are so weird. And I'm like, I will use this in presentations going forward. So just let me take pictures [inaudible].

My own self if I had gone down in that Metro by myself, because I know when you go underground, there's always a change in lighting, I probably would, in DC, which is a big city in my world, I probably would have carried my identification cane. Just as kind of an extra tool to let people know I have a visual impairment. I know that I can't use that cane as a regular traditional cane, but if I got to a point where I was nervous, like am I getting near the edge, I might've even reached out with that cane. I could have alternatively had the flashlight on my mobile device on or had a handheld flashlight.

One thing I think is really important, no matter what transportation you're using, if you're using any form of public transportation, is to have your fare card or your money out and ready. Whether that's having just a special little place in the outer pocket of your backpack, having a change first that just has enough money for maybe two or three bus rides. But if you're going through and you're looking, you know, I know my wallet's in here somewhere. And you're pulling stuff out, you're making yourself very vulnerable for somebody coming up cause you're not paying attention.

The other thing that you really want to think about is keeping your belongings close to you so that somebody can't swipe your belongings. And when you're on a platform, like the one I have in the picture that I talked about in the Metro station, I always stand back away and I try to stand near other people because I figure they're not going to go too close to the edge. So I don't want to put myself in a situation where I'm going to potentially not realize that I'm standing close to the edge of a platform.

So another activity we have in Finding Wheels is called the safety check. And what we do is we provide a list of lots of different things that one can do to keep oneself safe and we ask the traveler to rate each one of these. Is this something I'm doing? Something I could see myself doing? Or something that's just not in my wheelhouse, it's not something I want to do. So let's watch a little bit of Grace's safety check.

O&M Instructor: Now we're going to talk about our personal safety during travel. Okay? And we're going to go through and I'm going to ask you if you do this and you're going to say, I am doing this. I want to do this in the future. This is, or I don't want to do it. Okay? All right? So, um, and, and it's, it's just a list of things that when you go out and travel, when you go off to college or whatever you're going to do that these are safety issues that you're going to need to think about when we start traveling on our own. And even now when we start to travel, because now that you're moving into your senior year, we're really going to pipe in on some of those big skills. Okay. Alright. Carrying identification with me.

Grace: Yes. I do that.

O&M Instructor: You do it. Do you have it with you now?

Grace: It's in my backpack.

O&M Instructor: Okay, good. Um, carry the names and contacts and information that I can contact on an in an emergency.

Grace: In my phone.

O&M Instructor: In your phone. Okay. But you have that. You're doing that. Okay. And we're going to put how we do that. Carry extra money. Do you have cash on you?

Grace: Not anymore.

O&M Instructor: You spent it?

Grace: I bought three packages at the basketball game of Oreos.

O&M Instructor: Follow the route of the vehicle to be sure it's going in the right direction. So when you, um, you probably are not doing this right now because you haven't had the need. Okay. But when I, and in an Uber, I know where I'm going. Right?

Grace: Yes.

O&M Instructor: Okay. So I know if that person takes the wrong turn. You as a student who is going to be trusting that driver will need to have your Google Maps on as well. And maybe your little ear bud or maybe something where it can talk to you so that you know where they're going to, okay? That's just going to be safe for you to know that. Okay? Because you are probably, one, you're not going to be able to see the landmarks. And two, you may not know where you're going. I mean, even if, if, um, um, in a town that I don't know where I'm at, I kind of keep tabs of, hey, where's he going? Just because I'm nosy that way. But it's also a safety check. Okay. So we'll, we'll talk about that more too. Know self-defense, any, you know, any self-defense?

Grace: I'm a yellow belt in karate.

O&M Instructor: Well, that'll work. Preview another route, either in person or using technology. You know what that means?

Grace: Like, look at another way to get there?

O&M Instructor: Preview a new route. Like if you're going to go to...

Off Camera Voice: Walmart.

O&M Instructor: Let's say you're going to go, well, we know how to get to Walmart. Let's say you're going to go to American Ninja over on the other side of town. Okay? And you're going to call an Uber. Okay? You're going to want to preview that a little bit before, just like if you were going to ride the bus. If you're going to ride the bus, you're to want to kind of know when you're going and where that bus is going and how it's going to get there. And okay? Just if, especially if it's a new route, you're going to want to look into that ahead of time. Okay? You don't wanna just want to willy nilly get out there and trust that the bus driver knows where... You know, you're going to have to know where you're going.

Penny: All right, so you got a feel for Grace and her safety check.