Requiem for my Van

Written by Cathy Grant

April Column 2018

Well a long-delayed decision has been made recently. My roommate has decided to get rid of my old wheelchair van in June. A few years ago, with the help of many people I purchased a newer wheelchair van, but my roommate bought my old one for his personal use.

When I first purchased the Van back in 2001 it wasn’t much to look at. An old HandyDART van, it had been converted to propane during the 90s and drive hard since it had retired. But it had been kept in good shape and was at a reasonable price that I could afford at the time. When I got it, the van had a major positive impact upon my quality of life. For several years it was my default means of transport. We needed groceries; we took my van. We needed to go to the bank; we took the van. We wanted to visit friends; we took the van. I needed to go to a medical appointment; we took the van. When we needed to go to the meetings that revolved around the formation of Community Living British Columbia; we took the van. And though it didn’t work out the way that I hoped, the two years spent working first with the Community Living Coalition and then with the Transition Steering Committee are still a significant portion of my life. Had it not been for freedom of choice that having the van gave me I doubt that I could have been able to participate.

Fast forward to today. As I said I still have a van today, and it has been a God send to me on several occasions. However, it is no longer my default means of getting around today; transit is. This really fundamental change in my attitude had been gradual over the past seventeen years, but really took off in 2010 with the introduction of the Canada Line and the improved bus service near my home. Suddenly I could get to many parts of Metro Vancouver in around an hour. As well several major commercial projects were completed, which delivered services I both needed and wanted closer to where I lived and on major transit routes.

So, if I want to go shopping, or need to do something else; Lougheed Mall, Metrotown, heck even Colquitlam Centre are now within reach. Not to mention the improvements at New Westminster Station and at the Marine Drive Station allowing for reasonable alternatives. Not to mention venues like the Roundhouse Community Centre that have become real go to place for disability functions.

All of this talk about transit may sound strange but looking back to how I used my van compared with today has really caused to me think. We (meaning the disability community in general) complained all the time about how difficult it is to get around the Lower Mainland and while there are still a lot of problems I think it is equally important to pause and reflect on just how far the community has come, and that overall the last twenty years has seen significant improvements to disabled people’s ability to get around.

Just some food for thought.

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