October is Disability Awareness Month. Island Transit’s Mobility Specialist, Maribeth Crandell, had an opportunity to interview a rider not only popular amongst many of the bus drivers but also very familiar with the subject. Maribeth boarded the bus at March’s Point Park and Ride and introduced herself to Mira.
Mira has been riding with Island Transit for the past eight years – she is a favorite among the Island Transit crew. Public transportation offers her flexibility and freedom to travel – she has been blind since infancy. Mira uses both fixed-route and paratransit bus services. When using the fixed-route services she does request some assistance from the bus operators, who are always helpful and kind.
This past year Island Transit began installing annunciators on all the buses; they automatically announce each upcoming stop. Mira appreciates the announcements as she tracks her route. When using paratransit, she calls dispatch to schedule her trips at least a day ahead. Paratransit is a curb-to-curb service offered for those who are unable to use the fixed route bus. Applicants have to go through a certification process to qualify. Sometimes paratransit trips are combined with the fixed route bus services.
Mira is a musician, a vocalist and a vocal arranger. She used to create tracks of background music with guitar, drums and a keyboard on a synthesizer. She loves to sing rhythm and blues, gospel and jazz – she has sung in choirs and loves to harmonize with a group. During the pandemic she began creating music she calls “Songs in the Key of Joy” as uplifting therapy; songs with positive meaning, and she offered this music at the Skagit Valley College. “We all needed a happy place to be,” she says.
When she was a student at Skagit Valley College on the Mount Vernon campus she would take Island Transit from Oak Harbor to March’s Point and then switch to Skagit Transit for the rest of the trip. Mira studied to get her degree in Human Services. She did a work-study program with Community Action, which helps people who are homeless or need assistance. She’s particularly interested in memory care and communications. Mira helped students with online homework and assisted people with disabilities to get better access to a computer. She uses technology to read the computer screen; one particular program is called JAWS – Job Access with Speech. Lately, Mira has had some medical issues but is anxious to get back to work. “I really like helping others,” she says.
Besides going to and from school, Mira sometimes takes the bus to run errands. When she first moved to Washington she worked for Verizon Wireless in Bellevue. When comparing transit systems she says “For the most part, I really love Island Transit.” Still, there have been some glitches, although the dispatchers and drivers work hard to make her ride smooth. Paratransit is not a taxi service – there may be other riders on the bus and sometimes she has to wait a while for her ride. But overall, she likes the friendly community feeling of it. “It’s fun to joke around with the dispatchers.”
Maribeth and Mira’s conversation concluded as they reached their final destination, Harbor Station. The driver offered Mira an elbow to guide her to the door; they stepped off together and he led her to her next ride. She smiled for a photo and then boarded the bus that would take her home.