Wave Transit to eliminate services for the blind

Reported by Claire Simms - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT)  - Wilmington's Wave Transit is ending a program that many blind and visually impaired passengers depend on to get around.

Resident Libby Webb uses the taxi voucher program to visit the doctor, go grocery shopping, and to go to church.  She is legally blind and often calls taxis to get where she needs to go.

For now, Wilmington's Wave Transit subsidizes her transportation with taxi vouchers for the visually impaired.

"It was very good," said Libby. "It was very dependable to call our cab companies and there was no hesitation in them getting us back and forth where we need to go."

But that program is coming to an end.  Libby received a letter in the mail this month saying the vouchers would not longer be available.

Wave Transit Director Albert Eby said the decision to pull the program was based mostly on finances.

The vouchers cost $3 each for people in the program, then Wave pays cab companies and additional $7.50 subsidy for each trip.

The Transit Authority's letter also said the program had to end to comply with federal regulations, but Libby said those reasons don't mean much to people like her.

"We, who are visually impaired and don't have anyone to call upon, are trapped in our homes," said Libby.  "I feel they're taking our freedom away from us. If I had the money, I would do it myself."

Wave officials say they will help their current voucher customers transition to using paratransit vans, but Libby said that's not a good solution.  Instead of calling a taxi for immediate pick-up, she will now have to call at least 24 hours in advance to get a van to pick her up at home.

Libby will have ten more vouchers to use in June, then she and many other visually impaired passengers will have to find other modes of transportation.

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