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Blind students unable to attend class

County cuts bus service
By: Bruce Warren Journal Staff Writer
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A class of visually impaired students will no longer receive bus rides from the Placer County Transportation Service Agency due to economic cutbacks. Instructor Eileen Boyce received a form letter in the mail from Western Placer Consolidated Transportation Services Agency that stated as of Jan. 2, 2009 “CTSA services will be administered through a new public partnership between the Western Placer CTSA and Seniors First.” Rides via the new service are for medical reasons only and do not include the 12 visually impaired students, who attend weekly classes at the Placer Visual Service Center on F Avenue F in the DeWitt Center. None of those students were able to ride the bus to class this week. The regular Wednesday class is a support group for seniors who have lost all or most of their vision. It’s a place where they get help with kitchen and mobility skills, safety tips and much more. Students hear guest speakers on topics such as nutrition for diabetics, as many have lost vision due to diabetes. In addition, the center hosts craft classes for seniors who are blind or visually impaired. “For some, this is their lifeline,” said Jeanne Crum, an assistant teacher with the 35-year-old program for more than three years. On Wednesday, Dave Brown of Meadow Vista had no way to get to class until Crum, who lives in Alta Vista, gave him a ride. Brown, 64, an Air Force veteran, became legally blind about four years ago as a result of diabetes, he said. Brown comes to the two-hour Wednesday skills class regularly. It’s become an integral part of his life. “Most of us are housebound so this class gives us a way to cope,” Brown said Wednesday. “The skills we learn help us daily and we get a variety of speakers who help us with a variety of ways to cope.” There’s no public transportation for Meadow Vista residents such as Brown. “We are really isolated in Meadow Vista,” Brown said. “There are no public transit buses out there. There is absolutely nothing.” Another student, Judy Doyle, 63, of Newcastle has been coming to the visual center for crafts on Tuesdays and Thursdays and depended on the former county bus service to get there. She enjoys painting the woodcrafts, wind chimes, birdhouses and other items that are later sold at Christmas in order to buy more craft supplies. “If I weren’t here, I would be at home by myself,” Doyle said. “Almost everybody here is my friend. It’s my second family.” On Wednesday Doyle got a ride from her daughter who works a split shift at a local gas station, but she can’t bring her to the vision center all the time, she said. Doyle was born with a lack of oxygen, which created “extreme tunnel vision,” she said. Doyle can only see an area about the size of a dime when she looks at someone. “This class keeps me busy and I enjoy making crafts,” Doyle said. Two Auburn groups have come to the rescue to temporarily provide rides for students. “The Lions Club and Seniors First are working to get us temporary transportation to class until this can be resolved,” Boyce said. Boyce has contacted David Melko with the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency, who was responsible for making the decision to cut bus service to the visually impaired, Boyce said. Melko did take take the names and addresses of students who need rides, Boyce said. However, no means of transportation has been provided for students thus far. Several phone calls were made to Melko’s office, but were not returned before the Journal’s deadline.