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DTA recognized for enabling bus access for those with physical limits

The local nonprofit People with Disabilities for Change will present the Duluth Transit Authority with a certificate of appreciation today for its work to help people with disabilities.

The local nonprofit People with Disabilities for Change will present the Duluth Transit Authority with a certificate of appreciation today for its work to help people with disabilities.

The DTA has made an ongoing commitment to train its drivers to help people with physical limitations access the city buses, People with Disabilities said in a news release.

Each DTA driver is taught about power wheelchairs and how they operate so they are able to assist users if needed. The training came in useful for driver Lee Johnson and wheelchair user Beverly Strongitharm last winter.

Strongitharm drove herself to an early doctor's appointment in her handicapped van, which opens to the rear.

"I backed out (onto Superior Street) and I got stuck," she said. "It was a horrible, cold day and it had snowed the night before and nobody had plowed anything. I couldn't find the curb cut to get up and I got stuck. I was just sitting there. There was nobody around because it was about eight in the morning.

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"And this bus driver pulled up, stopped his bus and ran out and got me up on the sidewalk," Strongitharm said. "I wanted to kiss him. He was a lifesaver."

General Manager Dennis Jensen said he believes the DTA starts earlier and does a better job than many communities at meeting federal mandates for providing services to people with disabilities.

"And it shows," Jensen said. "We carry a lot of wheelchairs on our regular routes. And you have to keep in mind that not all people with disabilities are using wheelchairs."

On average, 23 people in wheelchairs are carried on the DTA's regular buses a day. The DTA's Stride -- Special Transit RIDE -- service carries about 70 a day.

Related Topics: TRANSPORTATION
Steve Kuchera is a retired Duluth News Tribune photographer.
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