Washington, with the best of intentions, has equipped some of its buses with ramps so that persons with disabilities can get around town. Unfortunately, good intentions are not quite enough. Many of the ramps don't work.

In one recent incident, for example, I tried to take a bus that came equipped with a ramp. The driver was able to get the ramp to shoot out but couldn't make it descend to a level at which I could get on with my wheelchair.

After about 10 minutes of fruitless button-pressing, the driver decided to give it up and retrieve her ramp so that she could continue her route without me. But the ramp refused to retract. And several more minutes of button-pressing failed to unstick it.

With the bus thus disabled, the passengers had to disembark and wait for the next shuttle. It too came equipped with a ramp. I waited while everybody boarded except me. Then the driver released the ramp for me. But once again, as if the second bus were in cahoots with the first, the ramp shot out but would not descend to a level at which I could get on in my wheelchair. Nor would it retract so that the driver could continue the route.

At this juncture, the drivers of the two ill-fated buses radioed for help. Meanwhile the passengers, most of whom were in a hurry, had to troop off the second bus and wait for yet another shuttle. It's not difficult to imagine their feelings.

Obviously, Metro authorities need to do more than routine services on these ramps. If the ramps don't function, then their overall purpose is not being achieved.

The ramps should be checked every morning to ensure that they are in good working condition. The bus drivers, too, should from time to time be drilled on the proper operation of the ramps. It seems that some drivers either lack the proper grasp of the exact manipulation of the mechanisms or have forgotten the methodology. Metro authorities might also consider replacing some of the older city buses.

One item covered in the recently enacted Americans With Disabilities Act is transportation. The law says that persons with disabilities must have access to public transportation without discrimination, hindrance or barrier. Bus ramps that don't work are a barrier. If persons with disabilities are expected to be active participants in the D.C. community, Metro must do more to remove obstacles from their path. The best of intentions are not enough.

-- Luke Okoli