I am disabled by chronic illness but do not usually use an assistive device (I only use a cane for distances), I recently traveled with my two kids (ages 8 & 12) and I was only able to get seats in the UL because the LL was booked. I called the 800 Amtrak Customer Service number before even making my reservations to make sure that on a disabled ticket that I could get assistance getting my carry-on up and down the stairs. I can walk those stairs but have difficulty lugging the stuff. I was told to just ask for assistance and this would happen. I also need assistance getting from one train to another in a large station such as Chicago.
I had no problems getting assistance from the Amtrak employees at the Milwaukee station where we began our journey, but then the problems started. We were sitting in the "assistance" seats on the commuter train (Hiawatha) to Chicago and I also told the attendant on the train that I'd need help when we got off the train and he agreed to this. But when we arrived in Chicago, no one showed up, and we seemed to be the last passengers on board. I had to stick my head out the train door to try to find help where thankfully we were able to get a redcap, but not before my 12 y/o who has anxiety had had a panic attack on the train thinking we'd never get off.
When the redcap took us to our connecting train, he had us get off and told us to walk a certain direction. I found myself in a large "boarding gate" area with a long line. I asked around for assistance and found an employee who verified my disabled ticket and put us into the next room with a large group of people and told to sit over on the right. That employee immediately walked away and then within 2 or 3 minutes the entire group of passengers started to get up and go board the train, so we followed. I came across another employee and told her that I needed assistance, and she told me to "walk down that way" (to board the train). We never got any assistance. Got to the train door and told the Amtrak employee I needed assistance and the first thing out of his mouth was, "Why didn't you check some of these bags?" I told him I had actually checked 3 bags already and all I had in carryon food for us (my 8 y/o has food allergies so we can't eat in the dining car at all since they have a disclaimer that all of their food could have exposure to allergens), my CPAP machine bag, and my son's (small) backless booster car seat, along with a change of clothes and some blankets pillows and a few things to keep the kids entertained. (Even with these things by the way we were NOT over our carryon limit even with the carseat and CPAP machine which wouldn't have counted anyway). So he picked up our two larger duffels and carried them on but put them in a storage area on the LL instead of going up with them for us. I told him I needed them at our seats upstairs and his reply was, "Carry them up yourself." I asked him if he didn't believe I was disabled. He didn't respond. I asked him if they did not help disabled people and he said, "Disabled people are usually on the LL." (Well, that may be true but that was sold out and 800 customer service had told me I could get help before I even bought my tickets!!) He then said that the redcaps were supposed to do this stuff and that one had just left. I said that I ASKED at every juncture for help and this was where I ended up! He just stared and said nothing. So I eventually got my stuff upstairs while struggling with my pain condition and sick feelings (while competing with stair space with regular boarding passengers) with no thanks to him. I also asked another attendant shortly before arrival for help getting down the stairs when we got to Memphis, but just like with the first train, no one showed up. I spoke to a CS person at the Memphis office by the way who told me what this guy did was unacceptable, that yes, this is usually the red caps' job but the disabled ticket should've made the difference for me, and took his name down (she said she knew who he was). She gave me a CS number also to call but I haven't had a chance to yet and I wonder if it would even make a difference.
So we are going back home this Wednesday night. Can anyone tell me how I can make our return trip better? Any clues for getting help getting on or off? (btw, I noticed the lady in the wheelchair was not forgotten). Any clues on getting transport from our incoming train and departing train in Chicago (at least we have more time to connect this time but I felt lucky to find that redcap right out my door)?
Another thing that happened was that when it came to our seats being assigned on Chicago to Memphis, we had 2 seats on one side but the window seat on the other side. The man wno had the aisle seat was unwilling to switch seats with my 12 y/o who had to sit on the other side of him by the window so I could sit with the 8 y/o. The thing is, all that Amtrak knows is that these kids are age 2-12. What if they'd been 3 and 4 years old? This seating arrangement wouldn't have worked for anyone (disabled or not) in that case. Any tips on how to avoid this for the trip back? Can I call and get seats assigned early? I was so stressed out with the lugging the carryon issue that I forgot to ask about this at the Memphis counter before we left.
Thanks in advance for any help. Btw, I have another trip planned with they kids in August for Denver but at least I was able to get LL seats for that one.