• Dr. Stuart P. Stofferahn

Day #15 - Imagine

Day #15 - Imagine

I had the pleasure today of running into (for the second time), Jeff Altman of the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCBVI). He is a travel instructor for the commission, and he was traveling with students. They were all kind enough to allow me to take a selfie together. After our first chance encounter, I didn’t know if I would ever run across him again, so I was very happy to have the opportunity to ask him (and his students) more questions. I have since made an appointment to meet him at NCBVI for a tour – look for that blog early next week.

Jeff Altman and his students at a bus stop.

One of the things that continues to be a challenge for me is to really place myself in the shoes of someone who MUST rely SOLELY on public transportation for their livelihood. For example, I have successfully navigated to a couple medical appointments without a problem. But my job allows for incredible flexibility to do so. If I had a job without that flexibility, what would it look like?

My most recent appointment was at 1:30 PM. To get there, I had to leave my house at about 11:45 to ensure I made the bus. It would mean I would arrive at my appointment about 30 minutes early, but the only other option was arriving too late for my appointment. Once my appointment was over, I had to find the next available bus heading back the other direction – in this case, the earliest arriving bus involved a 55 minute wait (just missed the other outgoing) – or a 3:00-ish PM departure. Once on board, the trip would take a little over an hour, which would put me back home close to 4:30 PM. Here is the agenda a little easier to see:

11:45 AM – Depart home

12:08 PM – Board bus

1:10 PM – Arrive for appointment

1:30 PM – Appointment

2:00 PM – Appointment ended, check for next bus

3:00 PM – Board bus for home

4:15 PM – Deboard bus

4:30 PM – Arrive home

For ONE medical appointment. Almost FIVE hours.

So, what can we take away from this? I guess it depends on where you are as a member of this community, the choices you have, the influence you hold, and the support systems you have in place that impact your independence. It also depends on how we view our role/responsibility in advocating for those most vulnerable.

For anyone who has limited resources and limited or nonexistent support systems, the world can be a very small, difficult place to live. Imagine sitting on the side of the road after a blown tire. Not a car in sight and not one for hours, your spare tire flat, no water . . . just you. Desperate, alone, and out of options. You are starting to get close to what a lot of people feel like all the time.

But for the specific scenario illustrated by my bus journey to an appointment, imagine.

Imagine having to go to your boss to ask for almost an entire day off, just so you could get to one medical appointment. Will he understand?

Imagine having to make a decision whether to attend a medical appointment, knowing that doing so means a smaller paycheck – when there already isn’t enough to go around. How will I survive?

Imagine your medical appointment consisting first of a freezing walk in the snow, wind, rain, or hail, followed by long hours on the bus and later more exposure to wind and freezing weather – only to be given some form of demerit from a supervisor upon returning to work, because you have missed too much work. Is it only a matter of time before I’m fired?

Now, imagine.

Imagine you are a co-worker who might become part of another’s support network and offer a ride to an appointment.

Imagine you are a boss who more fully understands the plight of all your subordinates and works tirelessly to ensure employees have pathways to fuller potential – which only ends up improving the bottom line.

Imagine not having to choose between making a living - or making a medical appointment.

It’s easy if you try.

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