Sunday, July 30, 2000

Firms help non-drivers get out of town

        Westwood reader Joyce Douglas wrote to ask what services are available to people with disabilities that would transport a person by car from one city to another. At 70, Mrs. Douglas lives alone, and she's decided to move home to her family and friends in her native Charleston, W.Va.

        A moving company will transport her belongings, but she needs to travel by car to carry her plants and cat.

        With her roller walker, she is ambulatory, but arthritis and two hip replacements have made assistance necessary. She has used Metro's Access service for people with disabilities for the last four years, and wondered if there is a similar service for traveling out of state.

        “I know it will probably be costly,” she writes, “but I don't know who to call.”

        Mrs. Douglas is not unusual. Many people with disabilities are unable to drive, and many would prefer traveling by private vehicle when visiting a friend or relative in another city or going out of town for business.

        While the options are far from abundant, it turns out that there are a few local companies willing to provide such transportation at somewhat reasonable prices.

        KangaKab in Elmwood Place (641-1777—) focuses on medical and special needs transportation within Hamilton County. The majority of the company's 40-vehicle fleet of town cars, mini vans and 15-passenger vans are equipped with wheelchair lifts, and the bulk of the in-city business consists of transporting individuals to and from dialysis treatments, medical appointments and work contracts sponsored by disability-related organizations.

        The second largest part of the business is in airport trips — $39 to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, $125 to Dayton and $175 to Louisville. An additional $20 is added for wheelchair-equipped vans and assistance, but each additional passenger up to a van's capacity is only $10 more.

        “We'll basically go anywhere,” explains Diane Bertsch, KangaKab operations manager, but individuals are encouraged to call for exact pricing. From a home in Cincinnati to a home in Columbus, for instance, the price would be about $150 one way.

        Door to Door Transportation in Blue Ash (489-7788), has fewer vehicles (two of them wheelchair-lift equipped) but lower prices. Like KangaKab, Door to Door will travel to Dayton, Cincinnati or Columbus airports. A one-way trip to the Columbus Airport costs $100 for one passenger and $120 for two to three.

        Due to fluctuating gas prices, Door to Door also suggests people who need custom trips call for exact pricing. A recent trip for a passenger traveling from her Springboro home to a wedding in Cincinnati cost $75 each way.

        A third long-distance option is Gold Coach (851-8801), a limousine service that focuses primarily on corporate business, transporting out-of-town business travelers to and from the airports and around the Tristate. Although none of the company's 36 vehicles include wheelchair lifts, the assortment of cars, mini vans and larger vans present a range of possibilities for ambulatory passengers with disabilities.

        A trip to the Cincinnati Airport with Gold Coach runs $43 (plus gas surcharge of $2-3 and a 20 percent driver gratuity), but there is no increase in rate for two, three, or four passengers. A one-way trip to Louisville, company president Bruce Berring estimated, would be about $135 for a family of four.

        And what about Joyce Douglas? She wound up contracting with a private individual located through a local taxi company. Her question and solution are one more reminder that to have a disability and live a full life requires more than a dash of resourcefulness.

        Cincinnati writer Deborah Kendrick is a nationally recognized advocate for people with disabilities. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, Tempo, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202.


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