Guest post: a letter of appreciation to DATS

I received this letter from Rosemarie, a constituent of ward 6. They asked that I share this letter on their behalf.

I became a DATS (Disabled Adults Transportation System) client briefly in 2010 and again in 2019. Most trips were to and from work every weekday. I thank DATS for all the assistance I received.

The DATS drivers I have met are diverse. They come from so many different countries and circumstances; e.g.: Somalia, Czechoslovakia, the Philippines, people who have lived in Edmonton their whole lives, First Nations, Metis, people in their early 20s, seniors and most ages in between, with great variation in life experiences.

One theory states that it’s only [possible for a person to focus on one cognitive task at a time. DATS drivers must consider:

  • the conditions of the road, sidewalk, stairs and ramps;
  • the traffic;
  • information on the computer and audio instructions from booking agents;
  • time constraints, attempting to pick up every passenger within a half hour of their requested time;
  • following DATS rules and regulations – contribution of driver – ; and
  • meeting the needs of each client; such as: pushing a wheelchair, providing a step stool, making sure a service dog has sufficient space in the vehicle, and helping a person with arthritis unlock the lobby door of an apartment building.

COVID-19 greatly increases the challenges DATS drivers face. They must help clients get in and out of wheelchairs, hold others by the arm and lean across some to fasten seat belts. Hearing and being heard is often problematic when everyone wears a mask. Vehicles must be wiped down after each passenger leaves. For many weeks, only one client per vehicle was allowed. Cancellations are frequent. Many clients stayed at home from April to the end of June or July. Some days drivers who worked could not earn nearly enough to survive.

Physical fitness and flexibility benefit drivers. Walkers and wheelchairs are taken in and out of vehicles. Attaching the belts that keep wheelchairs in place requires much bending. During their shift, drivers help clients get from the building’s inner door to and from the vehicle, walking in all kinds of weather conditions.

I experience drivers amazing in offering gifts such as: efficiency, effectiveness, outstanding driving skills, appreciation, fostering positive interaction among passengers, ability to teach clients ways of working with the driver as a team, patience, humour, spirituality, acceptance, philosophical insights, interesting life stories, musical talents, listening skills, understanding, caring, and empathy.

I think being a DATS driver is one of the most challenging occupations; for some, it is a vocation. As I reflect on this work, my appreciation grows. I wrote this letter so that other people can better understand the difficulties DATS drivers face and ways they may brighten a client’s day, and to express my gratitude. Thank you.

I’ve also had great experiences with brief telephone interactions from DATS booking agents. 

Thank you to the City of Edmonton’s ETS DATS organization and the many people there who have enriched my life in various ways.