North Bay visually impaired rider loses Paratransit service on a technicality

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip KGO logo
Thursday, July 1, 2021
Bus service cut leaves North Bay visually impaired rider stranded
A visually impaired woman nearly lost the only way she has to get home from work -- due to a technicality.

ROHNERT PARK, Calif. (KGO) -- A visually impaired woman nearly lost the only way she has to get home from work -- due to a technicality. The cancellation threatened to leave her stranded.

A stroke eight years ago deprived Laurie Ballard of her sight. Despite that, she's able to work five days a week at Walmart Neighborhood Market in Rohnert Park, organizing shelves and tearing down boxes.

It's a job she loves and one she doesn't take for granted.

"First of all, visually impaired people, I don't know if you know about the job percentage for them, but it's extremely low," said the Rohnert Park woman.

Recently Ballard received a notice that her Paratransit service on Sundays would be discontinued. That would have meant she would have no way to get home from work that day.

"That was a serious problem," said Ballard. "I need this job. I want this job. So it was a big deal."

It was a big deal for Ballard's boss, too.

"I was trying to see what I could do to switch her days around but we really did need her on Sunday. We're short staffed already," Deb Grayson of Walmart Neighborhood Market said.

Ballard called the county and pleaded with them, but they told her there was nothing they could do for her.

"You know, they were giving me these rides," she said. "All of a sudden they said, no, we can't do that anymore... I said I always get rides on Sundays. They said, well, I'm sorry, it was a mistake."

She asked 7 On Your Side for help, so we contacted Sonoma County Transit.

They explained to us the rules forbid them from traveling beyond three-quarter miles of an existing bus route.

A worker discovered Laurie's bus service was just beyond the three-quarter mile limit.

However, they decided they would make an exception for her since it had the capacity to do so.

"I'm grateful I can still come here and work with these great people like Deb and be able to work. That's the main thing. I appreciate 7 On Your Side helping me with that," Ballard said.

And Ballard boss Deb is grateful too. "I really need her every day she works. She's very valuable to my team. I count on her a lot," she said.

We want to thank Sonoma County Transit for finding a way to make this work for everyone.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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