Left Behind: Commuting on Metro in a Wheelchair - NBC4 Washington
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Left Behind: Commuting on Metro in a Wheelchair

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Why one commuter is trying to prevent others from keeping her down while she tries to go up. (Published Monday, Feb. 9, 2015)

    Kelly Mack is one of the most upbeat people you may ever meet.

    "I'm pretty easy going, pretty laid back,” she told the News4 I-Team, laughing. “I have a pretty sunny disposition."

    But as she explained, there's one thing that really gets her down: "A lot of times I have to make my presence known, have to ask for space, say, 'Excuse me.'"

    Battling rheumatoid arthritis since she was 2 years old, Kelly can no longer walk and uses a motorized wheelchair to get around.

    "Everyone is stressed,” she said. “They're rushing to commute, and I think a lot of people haven't given a lot of thought about how difficult it might be for people with disabilities to use Metro."

    Kelly contacted the News 4 I-Team to help her show what she and many others like her go through every day. The I-Team hooked her chair up with cameras and followed her as she navigated a maze of elevators.

    "Sometimes I hear people grumble when I get on first and they feel like they've been waiting and I say, 'This is the only way I can use Metro. I don't have a choice. I cannot use the escalator,'" Kelly said.

    At the Woodley Park Metro, the I-Team watched as she tried to get to the front of a line about 15 people deep, only to be cut off by a stroller. The woman pushing it told Kelly, “I think it would be easier if I go in first."

    Kelly showed us pictures she’s been taking that show how people won't even let her on the elevator at all. Won't look her in the face as they cram onto the elevator and leave her behind.

    "That elevator was designed for people with disabilities," said Dara Baldwin of the National Disability Rights Network. Baldwin explained it's OK to use the elevator if you have a stroller or luggage, but if you see someone with a disability who can't use the escalator, you need to let them board first.

    "The fact you have used up equipment that was specifically made for them to get around in and you're taking it first," she said. “You’re taking away that person's civil, human and ADA right by doing it."

    Which is why, when you get on a Metro elevator, you will hear an announcement telling you, “Please give priority to seniors and persons with disabilities before you use the elevator” and signs saying people “with disabilities and seniors board first.”

    Metro just launched a new campaign reminding riders to give priority to the disabled, the elderly and pregnant riders. In a statement, Metro said "because many disabilities are not visible" it’s important you don't challenge the person asking to go first in line or to sit in a priority seat.

    Kelly showed the I-Team how she needs to go in first to maneuver her chair so it will fit into Metro's elevators. Then she went to the loading platform. "There are times when the train is so crowded I can't get on. There are times where it’s very difficult for me to find the right spot to get on the train."

    And while there are days people hop off to let her in, most days she said she feels like a piece of furniture. "I've had people lean on my chair, rest their bag on me or my chair. It's kind of uncomfortable, please don't lean on me. I'm a person." She then laughed before saying, “You have to laugh or else you cry."

    Which makes you realize, as bad as your commute might be some days, Kelly's commute is challenging every day.

    "Everyone knows life's got its challenges," she said. "We can treat each other a little better and think about each other. It's not that hard."

    Something to think about from a lady determined not to let others get her down by preventing her from going up.