Woman shines a light on disabled community amid Coast Guard transit changes

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GRAND HAVEN – A woman in Grand Haven is asking the community to be more considerate of people with disabilities after a transportation company said it would not offer direct trips to the beach on Saturday.

Saturday will mark the last day of the annual Coast Guard festival. The festival, which lasts nine days, will end with a fireworks display fired at the water’s edge.

Jamie Jazdzyk, who is sometimes dependent on a wheelchair, says she goes to the beach every weekend and was also hoping to enjoy the Coast Guard Festival this Saturday. Jazdzyk says she normally uses the shuttle service from Harbor Transit, but won’t be able to do so because the company has increased the route for limited service to accommodate the festival.

“Saturday is the Coast Guard’s biggest day, when the most visitors come to the area. So in order to reduce congestion and ensure that residents and visitors can get downtown more easily without having to fight for parking, we are offering this incentive parking service, ”said Annelise Walker of Harbor Transit. .

The ride-on parking service picks up people from seven different locations and drops off passengers at 3rd Street and Columbus Avenue in downtown Grand Haven. While the Park and Ride shuttle attracts many drivers, Jazdyzk says it’s inconvenient for people who rely on wheelchairs.

“I didn’t realize how important it was for everyone to feel included until I became the one who wasn’t,” Jazdzyk said.

In 2016, Jazdzyk developed chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, an autoimmune disease that targets the body’s nervous system. She says her life almost changed overnight.

“I went for a run one night. I got home, went to bed and woke up the next day, swung my legs out of bed to get up and fell. I had lost feeling in my lower legs, ”Jazdzyk said.

Jazdzyk says that to get to the beach this weekend, she would have to travel more than half a mile to the nearest relay park pickup location. She says after being dropped off downtown, then she would have to travel 1.1 miles to get to the very beginning of the state park. Jazdzyk says the trip would likely require her to recharge her chair before heading home and be even more difficult for someone whose chair isn’t motorized.

“At the end of the day, there is a toll that I have to take every time I leave my door. It takes at least four times as much effort as it would take an able-bodied person to do it, and transportation is a particular problem that is always a problem to be solved, ”Jazdzyk said.

Harbor Transit says they realize that limited service can be inconvenient for some passengers, but they cannot provide special services to certain people in accordance with their policy.

“We realize that doing limited service is limited as the name suggests, and we try to announce it in advance as soon as possible to ensure that anyone who will be affected has time to prepare.” , Walker said. “In an ideal world, we would like to continue doing our normal Coast Guard Saturday service, but that’s just not possible with the number of people coming into town and needing to use our park-and-ride service. . “

Walker says all of their shuttles are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and will still offer rides for essential services, like doctor’s appointments, this Saturday.

Jazdzyk says she wants to take this moment to open people’s eyes to the experiences of others.

“We just want to enjoy the beach like everyone else,” Jazdzyk said. Just take one more step to think, can anyone do it? Can everyone open this door? Even kindness, thinking about it and realizing it will go a long way. “

Jazdzyk says the manager of Grand Haven City offered to personally take him to the beach this weekend after hearing his story. She plans to hike in her chair to show the challenges people with disabilities face.


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