Handi Van Inc. is a wheelchair van service founded in 1984. That was before Flex-Trans paratransit (1988), and before the Americans with Disabilities Act (1992). There were years Handi Van Inc. was the only transportation service for people in wheelchairs available in the Salt Lake Valley, and we took it seriously to do what the people needed no matter the difficulty. We are “Specialists in Difficult Transfers”.
We realize that we are all people. People with disabilities are people, not an “other” compared to “normal” us. In fact, founder Lee Anne Walker has been disabled from birth. Don’t try to tell her she is not both normal and disabled! We know people with disabilities are all unique–just like everyone else. So there is no “one size fits all” approach. As a result, we are both sensitive to the issues and comfortable helping where appropriate without making a big deal of anything. We can treat an independent teenager like his limo has arrived in front of the school, or be attentive and reassuring to a hospice patient going home to die. Some of our passengers are very dependent. Others do not see themselves as disabled at all, but need wheelchair help at the moment, as the skier’s ride from the hospital to the airport. The customer is right (unless going against doctor’s orders or guardian’s care) and always treated with respect.
We do not discriminate between people. We provide transportation with wheelchair accessible vehicles. Legally, if a person needs emergency medical care in the vehicle, the appropriate call is to an ambulance. As a transportation service, we have passengers, not patients. Although some of our passengers are patients to their doctor or nursing home. We take both a healthy person with a disability taking his date to dinner, and a sick person with a disability who needs a ride to a doctor appointment. For one, we are just a taxi taking a guy and his date to dinner, and for the other we are what some people call “medical transportation.” We do not like that term because the so-called “medical model” in thinking about disabled people feeds into stereotypes that disabled people are always ill and do not live independently or hold real jobs.
We are licensed under the Special Transportation Ordinance in Salt Lake City.
We have seen it all–from Senators and Governors, to prisoners and drug addicts. We have met hundreds of sweet little old ladies going to the doctor, and some really tough customers whose disabilities caused inappropriate and/or violent behavior , and kept on smiling. And there was the guy they called Superman. So we have two things in common with Chris Reeves.
It is a private family business. We do not have any government subsidies, or government restrictions about who can use us. If you need us and somebody–you, insurance, benefits, relatives–promises to pay, we will come.
Lee Anne Walker, an attorney in a wheelchair, is the one person who has been with the company from the beginning to now. She has been dedicated to this service, knowing personally that readily available transportation is a key part of a disabled person’s quality of life. She received the 1994 YWCA “Leader Award: Business” for the outstanding good works done by this service.
We were a 24/7 service continuously up until this summer. Recently we are struggling with the recession and consequences of government reforms. We will keep appointments at any hour, and it doesn’t hurt to call any time nights and weekends to see if we have someone on. We are hoping for better times and to go back to normal, or on to something better.
This is Lee Anne and her mother Leila, now retired. Leila at times managed the office, dispatched, and sent out our first bills, pre-computerized billing in the early 1980’s. They are visiting Tom’s grave. He passed away in 2007. He was Lee Anne’s big strong husband who promised to take care of us in our old age! Well that turned out completely opposite–what can you say about real life! So are you watching over us, Tom?