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Making transportation accessible | Guest column

Submitted by Clayton Banry

My name is Clayton Banry, I grew up in San Juan, I’m 32 and I’ve been in a wheelchair since I was 18 because of a disorder called Mucolipidosis Type 3. It’s a rare, slowly progressive disorder that affects many parts of my body. Signs and symptoms of this condition are typically diagnosed around age 3. It has meant I grow slowly and have short stature. I can also have stiff joints and a dysostosis multiplex. Even with these challenges, I’m committed to directing my life towards being of service to my community.

I started working for San Juan EMS in October 2013 as the Morale Officer, where I plan fun association events and coordinate monthly birthday recognition for each member. Growing up, I knew that I wanted to help people but working for EMS was not on my list until I had a heart attack. After watching the EMTs and paramedics that night I saw how much compassion they had for their patients and how impactful that was. It made me want to be a member and help the same organization that saved my life.

In my free time I love being a part of the theater — either acting, writing plays, or directing and I’ve been doing it since seventh-grade. I’m also a founding member of the Young Adult Association of San Juan Island. YAAS is a social and community service-oriented group for young adults with disabilities. Between work, the theater, and YAAS I really enjoy my life in Friday Harbor but there is one challenge that I would like to solve. With my disability, I have to rely on my parents for rides because our island doesn’t have public transportation options for people in wheelchairs or with physical disabilities. It’s easy to take the ability to transport yourself for granted so it’s important that community members know this isn’t an option for everyone. I don’t want to have to depend on my parents for a ride to work or anywhere as they taught me to be independent.

Last January, before the pandemic, I started using San Juan Taxi and the drivers were willing to help me get in the taxi with my wheelchair, though it was driver dependent. However, most providers do not offer service to people with wheelchairs. I would like to see our community subsidize a shuttle service that could provide wheelchair-accessible rides on San Juan Island.

Despite the transportation barriers, I loved growing up in Friday Harbor because of how this community comes together. My friends and family are here. I don’t make much money so a wheelchair accessible transport service that is subsidized by the county or town would make a big difference. That’s why I am joining with other disabled people across our state to advocate for our legislature to fund transportation for people like me who can’t drive and I’m hoping the change can start here locally.