Michelle Floyd, an Oklahoma State University dietetics major, recently returned from a conference in Washington, D.C., where she and 39 other disabled college students from around the country discussed transportation problems for disabled people.

“I went there with the idea that I had many things I would like to change,” Floyd said.

But, after hearing some of the horror stories from other students, she had a different opinion.

“Coming out — I thought, that’s not so bad,” said Floyd.

While Floyd’s main issue that she wished to discuss with the congressional panel was lack of options for timely transportation at OSU, she learned that other universities were dealing with the same problems, and usually more.

Floyd heard testimony that bus drivers at certain universities wouldn’t buckle wheelchair bound people into their seats, and they would slide from side to side as the bus would turn. Others complained that drivers would not pick up a handicapped person if they were slightly out of the normal bus route.

Floyd said she would like to think that the OSU para-transit drivers would take a brief detour to pick up a handicapped student. During her turn to discuss problem areas, Floyd, the only representative selected from Oklahoma, provided some information that no other student could match.

“People were jealous when I said our (Para-transit) bus drivers have to drive other buses for at least a year” until they can drive our bus, Floyd said.

Many of the topics during the two-day conference were similar, and Floyd feels the common denominator comes down to just one small adjustment that could be made during driver orientation.

“People have a fear of people with disabilities,” Floyd said. Sometimes this uncomfortable feeling toward disabled people can lead them to be “shunned.”

Floyd said she hopes in the future there can be some type of training and interaction between drivers and people with disabilities. This would allow drivers to get through the disability, and see the actual person inside.

They told us, “you are not this handicap. You are a person who happens to be handicapped,” Floyd said of the panel.

She said it was a great overall experience and she hopes to speak with OSU transportation services to see what options are available. She was also made aware of 65 grants available to colleges and universities throughout the country to help deal with the problem of handicapped transportation.

“I would hope that I would be able to find a ride in the last-minute scenarios,” Floyd said because at this point she must call 24 hours in advance for a ride.

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