Ath­lete feels tran­sit changes take away her in­de­pen­dence

Medicine Hat News - - UP FRONT - GIL­LIAN SLADE gslade@medicine­hat­news.com Twit­ter: MHNGil­lianSlade

Re­cent changes to pub­lic tran­sit are af­fect­ing Spe­cial Olympics ath­letes es­pe­cially hard.

Terri Di­dack is one of about 55 lo­cal Spe­cial Olympics ath­letes who is strug­gling to reach the venue for bowl­ing prac­tise ev­ery week.

“I’m kind of mad that city coun­cil did not have an open house to ex­plain what the plan was,” said Di­dack. “They do not care about the peo­ple who use it (tran­sit). It does make me up­set.”

Di­dack is try­ing to ar­range rides in pri­vate ve­hi­cles so she can con­tinue her par­tic­i­pat­ing but says in the process she has lost her in­de­pen­dence.

“Bowl­ing is a part of my life. It gets me out so­cial­iz­ing,” said Di­dack, who says the clos­est bus route still means a three-block walk for her, some­thing she is in­ca­pable of. The time it takes to get some­where on the bus is also er­ratic mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to plan a route and know you can get to your des­ti­na­tion by the time re­quired.

Reg­is­tra­tion for Spe­cial Olympics takes place Satur­day and there is no pub­lic tran­sit on week­ends ex­cept for two routes that are not close to the venue, says Spe­cial Olympics chair Sandy Ma­hon.

An of­fer has been re­ceived from some­one in the com­mu­nity to help with trans­port­ing the ath­letes. While very grate­ful for that ges­ture, Ma­hon says she has to con­sider the im­pli­ca­tions if there were to be a ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent. The li­a­bil­ity is­sues may sim­ply make this un­ac­cept­able.

Ken Sauer, a for­mer al­der­man, and some­one who is pas­sion­ate about sports, says pub­lic tran­sit is an es­sen­tial and a so­cial ser­vice in the com­mu­nity. He be­lieves the city has mis­in­ter­preted the re­sponse to a fi­nan­cially fit sur­vey. Many of the 3000 peo­ple who com­pleted the sur­vey con­sid­ered pub­lic trans­port of lit­tle value. They are per­haps the peo­ple who have no need of pub­lic tran­sit them­selves, said Sauer. For many oth­ers there is no other op­tion to get about the city.

Merete Heggelund, the City’s CAO, ac­knowl­edged coun­cil’s re­cent in­struc­tions to pro­vide other op­tions for week­end ser­vice. Con­cerns ex­pressed will be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion, she said.

NEWS PHOTO EMMA BENNETT

Spe­cial Olympics chair Sandy Ma­hon (cen­tre, stand­ing) gath­ers with a group from the Spe­cial Olympics bowl­ing team who are find­ing it a chal­lenge to get to the bowl­ing al­ley due to changes to city tran­sit. Pic­tured are Kayt­lyn Spicer, Nathan Mau­rer, Shirley Frank, Peter Frey, Su­san Spicer, Shirley Bauer, Bry­don Marc­hand, Sandy Ma­hon, Terri Di­dack and Dean Marc­hand.

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