Transit Stories: Jalisa English

Chicago, IL – Access Living

I was born and raised in Chicago, in the Hyde Park neighborhood. I went to George Washington High School. I’m in the middle of finishing up my college degree in business management and currently taking some computer and information technology classes. While I’m going to school, I’m also really trying to build as much work experience as possible.

It can be tough for me to work, due to my medical issues, but I want to show people that even with my health issues, I matter and can help society. Currently, I’m working at Chili’s and have been there for three years.

I have something called short bowel syndrome. It’s a gastrointestinal disease. What happens is when I eat something, in five or ten minutes, I’m hungry again. My body struggles with absorbing things. I am missing 50% of my digestive system. I mostly depend on protein shakes. Even with living with this disease, I’m not the type of person that gives up.

​That’s one of the reasons I’m involved with Access Living. Access Living is a center of service, advocacy, and social change for people with all kinds of disabilities. I look at the simple fact that I’m fighting for people just like me.

In terms of transportation, I’m currently fighting with my insurance who is refusing to provide any sort of transportation for me to get back and forth to medical appointments. They say it’s because I use an electric scooter. It’s so frustrating because I really need to get to my appointments. I do weekly infusions where I’m hooked up to machines because my body doesn’t have enough magnesium, calcium, and potassium. If my levels drop too low, it can send me into a paralyzed state. My system is starting to wear down, because I don’t have enough viable transportation options to get me to my appointments.

I really wish Chicago and the State of Illinois invested more in our public transit system. It would be great if they updated some of the buses with new speaker systems. I must wear hearing aids and can’t always decipher what they are saying. I also travel with a service dog. Making sure our bus and train systems can better service people with disabilities where it’s easier for people like me to ride public transportation is important.

Investing more in operations could mean having an extra aide on the bus that could help not only me, but the bus drivers manage their routes. That would really make people feel welcome. It could really help to make sure people with wheelchairs and families with babies are comfortably seated and get to where they are going. They would almost be like a flight attendant. This isn’t some wild idea. We have proven we can do it. I rode the school bus growing up. We had an extra aide on the bus when I was growing up.

If I was sitting in front of my Member of Congress right now, I would demand more funding for our public transit system and extra investments for people living with disabilities. We matter too, don’t forget about us as well.  Thanks for listening to my story.

About Transit Stories

Transit Stories” is a series of real-life experiences with public transit in the U.S. We feature the first-hand experience of public transit riders from across the country. From large cities to small towns, we will document the experiences of the millions of users of busses, trains, ferries, and other forms of public transit in the US. Public transit is essential to our communities, to cooling the planet, to advancing equity. Transit is essential to our very lives.

There is a unique opportunity for the country to make a historic investment in public transit funding to help the country build back better. 

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