This weekend, we took a ferry trip to Bainbridge Island, an island in the Puget Sound near Seattle. I was driving the rental car, and my husband was in the passenger seat. The wheelchair and the luggage were in the trunk. As we pulled up to the ticket booth, I saw that there were price reductions for both disabled people and seniors, so I announced us to the ticket seller as one passenger vehicle, one disabled person, and one senior.
He looked from one of us to the other, clearly suspecting a scam. “Which is which?” he asked.
Me: “I’m disabled, he’s a senior.”
Ticket seller: “How do I know you’re disabled?”
I held up my state-issued disabled parking permit.
Ticket seller: “That could belong to anybody. I need to see some ID.”
I handed him my driver’s license. He glanced at it, held it out. “This doesn’t tell me anything.”
My husband leaned across me and said, “Do you want to look in the trunk and see her wheelchair?”
Ticket seller, indignantly: “That could be anybody’s, too!”
I choked back a laugh. “I don’t bring a wheelchair with me on an airplane so that I can get two bucks off a ferry ticket! I guess you’d better charge me full price.”
Ticket seller: “Wait, I didn’t see that you have those.” He gestured to the hand controls.
Me: “The hand controls? They could be anybody’s! In fact, they are—they’re Hertz’s!”
But for some reason the hand controls convinced him to give me the lower price. Then on the ferry they yelled at me for not letting them know that I had a wheelchair so that they could arrange the car loading for access to the elevator. On the return trip, we had no problem getting the discount, no ID or wheelchair examination necessary, and the ticket seller radioed the ferry crew to let them know I was coming. WSDOT, work on that whole consistency thing!
I emailed WSDOT about my experience, and received a very nice response from ADA Accessibility Coordinator Susan Moriarty. Ms. Moriarty satisfied me that the ticket seller I encountered was a loose cannon, and that Washington State Ferries is serious about accessibility and customer satisfaction.