Just recently I took Greyhound to attend a DeafBlind Retreat outside of Seattle, Washington. The retreat, most commonly referred to as simply Seabeck, was a great 4 days! I’ll blog about this later!
The trip down was uneventful. I have not set foot on American Soil willingly in 20 years, unwillingly in 18 years (more on that in another blog). So, I was pleasantly surprised with the changes made, both under ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) and the city of Seattle itself.
Leaving Vancouver at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning was a challenge in itself, the driver of that bus was respectful and helpful. He did show concern regarding how I would converse with the Border agents. I assured him, through my amazing wife, that I would be fine, not to worry. I have a phone and can use it to communicate.
It was a smooth ride!
Then coming back, oh the shit hit the fan!
My ride to the station was, in short, chaotic. We arrived with less than 20 minutes before scheduled departure. I was concerned that the bus left without me! This was the last bus to Vancouver for the next 12 hours. I could not switch to another bus, or time, without enduring additional charges. In my pocket, I only had $7 US dollars and no back up plan.
With less than 20 minutes, I was concerned! Yet, the lady who drove me from Seabeck to Greyhound went beyond her duties (and ASL skills) to converse with the station staff, and me, that I had not missed the bus. She also said that I was to wait by Gate B until approached and I would be given “front row” seating, this turned out to be ADA seating behind the driver.
Okay, so I waited…
There was a TV above the Gates, I don’t know if it was loud, but it sure was not captioned. ADA strike number one.
And, still I waited.
I checked the time, just about 5:52 (17 minutes behind schedule) when a black man approached me. Please excuse my next comments, it is not my intention to be racist, I need to explain the visual. The man was very black, his skin was a shade or two lighter than black coffee, I was barely able to see his mouth. He also wore a baseball cap that basically put his whole face into shadow.
This man came up to me, I did not know if he was security, the driver of the bus I was getting, or Greyhound Services (I was greeted by one such person when I arrived). I did not see a badge or anything that signified his role.
Anyways, we had the following exchange:
Him: “blah blah blah…” He was talking to me.
Me: I gesture “I’m Deaf.”
Him: “blah blah blah…”
Me: Gesturing and Voice “I’m Deaf!”
Him: “blah blah blah…”
Me: Voice only: “I am Deaf!”
Him: Finally cottoning on, puts to his lips. Which we all know is the universal gesture for “Can you read my lips?” Hope sails away!
Me: Voice only: “No, I am Deaf-Blind!”
Him: sees my ticket and grabs it, I attempt to grab it back. Remember he has not identify himself… could he be a stranger trying to grab my ticket to get to Canada?
He finally understand and gestures to follow him, back to the front. He shows me his passport which I understand means “Where’s your Passport.” Okay, now we are getting somewhere!
I show him my passport, and extract my ticket from his hand without a fight.
He then wants me to fill out a form for border crossing! Oh, I get it! First he was asking for my passport, then he wanted to know if had filled in the form. Alright, this is getting clearer now. But… that form was, is, totally inaccessible. Super small print! Hello CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency), your forms are inaccessible! How are Deaf-Blind, Blind, Low Vision, or myopic people supposed to fill these in if the forms need a microscope to fill out? Discrimination!
Getting back to the point, the black man told a Marshall to fill out my form, because I refused. The Marshall did, then gestured to me to go back to bus. Which I did. The black man was checking tickets and letting people on the bus! Aha! He is the Driver! That is clear now!
The Driver takes my whole ticket, and receipt, and gestures me to follow him on the bus. I push my walker and backpack toward the bus, indicating to put them under. Then follow the driver into the bus. He puts me in seats directly behind the driver shell. Okay fine.
End of scene 1.
After 3 hours of driving, it is growing dark, I try to turn on my overhead lights. Nope, not working. Yet I see other people have their overhead lights on. How are people with disabilities supposed to read at night?
Opening of Scene 2:
The bus pulls into the Canadian Border Crossing. The driver steps out, closing the door. He is gone 7 minutes while we are all getting ready to pass through to Canada, collecting bags etc.
Driver returns, enters the bus and points at me with gesture to follow.
I do so. When I am outside the bus, he closes the door and motions me to wait. He goes to the baggage area under the bus. And starts flinging other peoples luggage aside. He finds my bag and gives it to me… And gestures to follow him. He did NOT get my walker.
We enter the building and immediately I know what to do. I whip out my edited CBSA form (I had my CCTV with me!), my passport, and walked purposely to the nearest agent. Paying the driver no attention. The agent took the form, passport and I was in Canada within 3 seconds!
After a stop in a Canadian bathroom, I went directly to the bus, which other passengers were already boarding. I again, walked right by the driver with out acknowledging him.
It is my belief that this driver went into the border crossing station not to have a throwdown with CBSA agents about Seattle Traffic, but to warn them about me. That I was might be trouble, or that I needed specialized communication, thereby slowing down his ETA to Vancouver. We were already 35 minutes behind schedule.
The fact that he did not get my walker to me at the border crossing is also an ADA infraction. My wife jokingly suggested that I should have fallen, because it would have put him at blame. I should have demanded my walker as well. But, I didn’t, I wanted this trip over with!
There are many incidences of discrimination on this return trip! I did get the bus number and will follow up with it very soon.
And very seriously, the Driver of my bus needs to have Accessibility Training! First, you need to identify yourself, and if a person is Deaf, you must not assume he or she can lipread. And, kindly show respect! If someone comes with a walker, give the walker to the person at the right times! Do not assume, just because he or she climbed four stairs that he or she can walk far. I could have fallen.
I will send this blog to Greyhound via twitter, and also to CBSA and US Customs & Border Protection in regards to the inaccessibility of their forms.
BTW, crossing the border both ways was no trouble at all. It was very simple, a piece of cake actually!
Thank you for listening!
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Have a great weekend!