12 OYS: Handicapped senior says Augusta bus service discriminating

By: Jerome Collins Email
By: Jerome Collins Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / August 25, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- It is often a lonely world for Bruce Heitz.

"I don't go out there because there's nobody to help me get back," Heitz said.

He is blind and after losing a leg, also uses a wheelchair.

Heitz spends most days inside his home at Ramblewood Apartments in Augusta, because it is impossible to go far on his own.

"I have to propel this chair. I have to hold this cane. I have to hold the wheels," Heitz said.

He moved into the complex 2 years ago after he said the old management assured him the city's paratransit system buses would be able to navigate the parking lot to pick him up. Heitz said it just has not happened.

"They got a CDL and are trained by the state for that CDL. What's your problem," Heitz said.

He said he has been told it is a liability to back the buses up to turn around.

"To me that's discrimination, because you're only picking up the people who you want to pick up and evidently I was not on that list," Heitz said.

He said today, only with our help, he was able to get outside and show us how impossible it is to find his way down the parking lot and some 50 yards or so, to an area where paratransit could pick him up without having to back up and turn around. He never made it that far.

"A year ago I used to not worry about discrimination, but you know what? It is different when it happens to you," Heitz said.

A spokesperson with paratransit said it is not discrimination, but a concern about liability, and that backing up to turn around is hazardous, because of the potential to hit a pedestrian or damage property.

"UPS does it. FedEx does it," said Heitz. For now, he must rely on a taxi to go anywhere.

"I pay a cab $40 to take me to Wal-Mart on Bobby Jones," Heitz said.

A spokesperson for paratransit said it is actively working on a solution with management at Heitz' apartment complex. We understand the apartment complex may be ordering a handicap sign that can be installed on the other side of the parking lot from Heitz' parking space. That would allow the buses a designated place to back up.

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