Chronicle Misrepresents Disability Community Opposition to BART’s New Cars

by Lisamaria Martinez on April 28, 2014

My image, photographed by Lea Suzuki, was used to accompany an article published on April 17, by John Wildermuth on Unfortunately, the photographs and its captions do not accurately reflect my disappointment in the new BART car designs.

In two separate images, I am depicted holding onto a rail with one hand, holding my straight white cane in another, talking with friends. The captions below read that BART’s new train car designs are accessible and that feedback from the disability community is congratulatory.

This is not the case. The use of my image, their captions, and Mr. Wildermuth¹s article makes me seem as if I am in support of the new BART car designs. I am not. I am also upset that Mr. Wildermuth and Ms. Suzuki did not include my comments, or the comments of my colleagues, in the article.

Wheelchair users, people who use mobility devices and any parent with a stroller will have a much more difficult time moving freely and safely around the contentious poles. If 2 wheelchair users ride BART together they will have to sit at opposite ends of the same car since there is only space for one wheelchair user in each designated accessible area. If those 2 wheelchair users are a parent and a child, is it fair to split them up?

Would you feel safe having your 10 year old kid sit at the complete opposite end of the car from you? I don’t think so. Or, if you and a friend, both wheelchair-users, are traveling from the East Bay to the theater in San Francisco, would you feel humiliated that you are forced to ride at opposite ends of the car, unable to travel together, unable to talk about the exciting evening ahead of you? I think so.

The new green seats loudly proclaim that I am a person with a disability, a senior or a pregnant woman; this special seat color is stigmatizing and a direct offense to those who have fought for inclusion for our entire lives and careers.

These are just 2 examples of how the new BART cars are not “more accessible” to those with disabilities. “Our” side is not being heard. I have attended the mock-up viewings for that exact purpose – unfortunately, my comments have been silenced.

The press is doing its job to promote the new cars but is overlooking how people with disabilities are being left out. This is a 30+ year commitment and we cannot be left behind. For many of us, public transportation is the only way we can maneuver the Bay Area. BART plays a significant role in transporting my community to and from work, school, and personal activities.

A BART manager was reported to say:

“[The BART manager] straight up said ‘yes this is going to cause more problems for people who board trains with mobility problems and strollers, but how much sacrifice for the few do we make for the ability of many to stand — and stand safely?'”

You can find the above quote here:

These comments, ignorant and lacking in sensitivity, make me feel that we are less worthy than others. But we are not. Access is a civil right.

Many aspects of the new cars are exciting and awesome. I personally live right up against BART tracks and I’m thrilled to hear that they will be quieter. I’ll finally be able to leave my window open at night for some fresh air.

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