After she graduated from high school she entered VOICE, a great program run by the schools, to help kids and their families transition from the school district to the state run programs. One of the things we had to do was sign her up for DART. Our Community Transit system called Dial A Ride Transportation. It's for people who are unable to ride the regular transit buses and they go door to door. It's perfect for Beth because it allows her independence, but insures her safety. They pull into our driveway and drop her off at the door to the bowling alley. Or the mall or wherever she wants to go. Then they drop her back off at our front door.
We call at least two days ahead of time (it's no good for last minute excursions) and let them know where she's going, when she needs to arrive and what time she wants to come home. They do all the rest! And the drivers are basic community transit employees who volunteer to drive the DART buses. No easy job, let me tell ya.
Every few years we have to fill out a new application for DART. We have to explain why Beth needs to ride DART; why she isn't able to ride the regular CT bus. It sort of shocks you, reminds you once again that your daughter has special needs. You know how, after a while you just kind of forget? You know, she's just.... Beth. Well, every time I fill out this application, it's like I have to accept the Down Syndrome all over again. Every question reminds me that she is different.
Please clarify how your health condition or disability prevents you from getting to or using the regular fixed-route system.Then your choices:
1. I have difficulty knowing where to get on and off the bus because...
2. I am unable to figure out how to get from here to there in the desired time because...
3. I cannot transfer between buses because...
4. I cannot understand instructions from the bus driver because...
And on it goes.
Developmental, mental and behavioral conditions:
Autism - Mild, Moderate or Severe
Bipolar Disorder - Mild, Moderate or Severe
Down Syndrome - Mild, Moderate or Severe
You circle the condition and what level your child is. There are 13 to choose from.
Do you need the DART driver to assist you from your door to the bus?
At your destination, do you know where you are and can you enter by yourself?
Please explain in detail, any other considerations about your disability that will help us determine you eligibility.
It's 11 pages long.
Don't get me wrong, I'm so absolutely grateful for DART! It's been such a blessing for Beth. I can't imagine what her life would be like without DART. I pray for the drivers, it's a job I couldn't do, that's for sure!
It's just hard to read through this application. It's hard to write down the answers. It puts in black and white, all of Beth's shortcomings and disabilities. It screams at me, 'Your child has special needs! Your child is different!'