FROM OUR COMMUNITY - Accident shows that sidewalk safety needs to be a year-round issue

More than a year ago, I wrote a letter to Access Press describing my accident. I’m a longtime disability community activist and have worked on issues including adult protection laws.

My accident happened at 3:40 p.m. Monday, January 9, 2017. I was coming home on the bus from physical therapy. My bus stopped at 38th and Chicago, and I was getting off the bus to make a transfer. Because of the timing of the buses, I didn’t have a lot of time to make a transfer.

The bus stop is near a concern convenience store. The
store’s parking lot and gas pump areas were cleared of
snow, but much of the snow was piled on the sidewalk.

I use a walker. The bus driver used a hydraulic ramp so that I could get off of the bus. The ground was covered with snow, the sidewalk wasn’t cleared properly, and the ramp wasn’t on the sidewalk. I stepped out, lifting my walker’s front wheels. The back wheels got caught. I pulled and pulled. Suddenly the wheel came free came over the top, and I fell backwards and landed on Chicago Avenue.

The injury caused me to lose consciousness. I sustained a brain bleed, and had an ischemic stroke. The stroke affected my speech. I was very fortunate that my speech and my cognitive abilities came back.

I spent 17 days in the hospital, and had to undergo rehabilitation. They wanted me to stay another week, but I didn’t have the money for that.

Despite help from the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance and Hennepin County Bar Association, I recently lost my case in conciliation court. This experience has wiped me out financially. We lost $20,000 and even though conciliation court would have only paid $15,000 it would have helped greatly.

I am now in need of a hearing aid, which vocational rehabilitation will only pay half for, and dentures.

The injuries are on top of other medical issues I have had in the past. I’ve had three knee surgeries, one hip
replacement and a shoulder injury. I live with back pain,
need a back brace and have retina problems.

My goals now are two-fold. As a person with disabilities, I’d like to do public speaking about my experience.

I’d also like to see some permanent safety manuals and procedures to keep people with disabilities from getting hurt when they uses buses and travel public sidewalks.

Winter is a time that can be treacherous, but uneven sidewalks can cause problems all year round. Cracks and heaved sidewalks can catch a walker or wheelchair wheel. Construction can also create barriers.

My tips are:
*Never exit a bus backward, on a curb, if you use a
walker or wheelchair.
*Signal the bus driver ahead of time if there is a lot of
snow or another hazard where you are trying to board
the bus.
*Help passengers with walkers if they cannot get
across ice and ice ruts, or construction.
*Say thanks to those who offer help, even if you may
not need it.
*Ask for a transfer if your bus is late
*Ask the bus driver to sound the horn if your
connecting bus is nearby.
*Report unshoveled, icy or damaged sidewalks to
city officials. Report bus stops that are blocked by
construction to Metro Transit.
*In rainy or icy conditions, wait back from the bus stop
because buses or cars can slide when it is slippery.

What happened to me shouldn’t happen to anyone else. Many of us rely on buses for transportation but if we cannot get to and from our bus stops safely, it’s a
problem.

-Joy Rindels Hagden
Minneapolis