Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Landefeld Ladies go to Lansing

Wait. What? Is that me? How did I end up sharing my story before a Michigan House Committee ? Let's take a quick trip back.

MARCH 28, 2014: I wrote this post about Uber describing how much I was loving the freedom their service allowed me. This was not a sponsored post from Uber, just an independent customer review. Knowing the company's presence was somewhat new in Michigan I forwarded my post to Uber Detroit, so they could see the positive impact they were having. I received a very gracious reply from Mary Ellen,  Detroit Community Manager along with a customized promo code.

NOVEMBER 11, 2014: I received a phone call from Michael White, GM of Uber Michigan. He had been forwarded my blog post and was wondering if I'd be willing to speak at a legislative hearing in Lansing on Thursday to tell my story and how Uber has impacted my life.
Being a new technology platform, Uber is not covered under existing Michigan law. To address this, new legislation is being considered by Michigan State House Energy and Technology committee. Passage of this bill would confirm Uber's (and like-service Lyft's) place in Michigan and open ways for them to operate throughout the state.

I was a little surprised and very flattered by the phone call. The idea that my story, my voice,  could potential impact legislation was mind-boggling. Of course I was going to do it, I just needed to figure out how.

Except I didn't.
Not really.
 Potential solutions to my initial concerns were offered before I even voiced them. I could bring my daughter if I chose to, or childcare would be reimbursed if I chose to leave her at home. Transportation would of course be provided. I could ride with members of the Uber Michigan team who would be travelling from Detroit to Lansing that day, or they could certainly send me an Uber. Staff would be on hand to assist with Emy while I spoke and basically we wouldn't have to worry about a thing.
The only thing they were asking of me was to write a 2-3 minute statement sharing my story and explaining why I support Uber and the passage of the bill.

As Emy would say it was "Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy."
Me and my little lady - ready to take on Lansing.

NOVEMBER 13, 2014: 
Today even began with a huge success. Emy and I were both dressed and ready to go by 7:30 AM. This was no small feat considering most days she doesn't even get out of bed until 7:45. Clay & Cal two members of the Uber Michigan team picked us up and we were off!

Our drivers and chaperones for the day, Cal and Clay from Uber Michigan. These guys were amazing. They took such good care of us all day long ensuring that Emy and I felt comfortable, welcome, and had an enjoyable experience! I like to think you can judge a company by its employees and our new friends only solidified our love for Uber. 

We arrived in Lansing and met GM, Michael White and some members of his team to prepare for the hearing. We were joined by several Uber drivers who had agreed to share their testimony in front of the committee Emy and I were the only riders present. Shortly before 10:30 we walked over to the building where the hearing would take place. As we entered the hustle and bustle of the 3rd floor I was surprised when Emy broke away from me and ran straight into her daddy's arms. Josh had surprised us both by sneaking away from a conference he was attending to meet us!

Coincidentally Josh was attending a conference in Lansing on Thursday. He took some time out of his day to provide moral support and keep an eye on Emy during the proceedings.
My husband never ceases to amaze me with his unconditional love and support

It was exciting to watch the process of a proposed bill being introduced a House committee. Uber's GM, Michael White did an excellent job explaining Uber's role in the legislation and fielding questions from the committee members. The hearing was only allotted 90 minutes. With approximately 10 minutes left, the Chairman explained that straws had been drawn and 2 people who had requested to speak were granted time to give their testimony. I was one of the 2.

Nervously I approached the podium, stumbling as I took my seat. Thankful for the years of public speaking experience teaching elementary school had given me, I quickly got control over my nerves and remained calm and poised while I delivered my testimony.
It went really well. I felt as if I delivered my message clearly and eloquently and that the committee really got to hear a different side of why transportation technologies like Uber are important.
This was the room we met in. I didn't feel comfortable snapping photos during the proceedings, so imagine it full of State Representatives, Uber supporters, and observers. 

Once the hearing had ended we went to lunch with the Uber employees and several of the drivers. It was so fun meeting all these people from all across the Lower Peninsula who had come out to support Uber. There was a feeling of jubilation as we swapped stories and shared our experiences. We had done it. While the bill had yet to be voted on, and would most likely require some revisions along the way, it was clear that we had made an impact. The feeling that my voice and story had contributed to that impact was exhilarating and reinforced my belief that the sharing of stories can make a difference. In this instance, perhaps  it can even shape the law.
Celebrating Mommy's testimony by catching as many snowflakes as possible. 

I was thrilled that I was able to bring Emy with me to witness such a powerful display of civic responsibility. Her presence that day also made an impact. After all, she is an integral part of my story. The stress and concern I felt about how she would handle the long car rides, her behavior in governmental buildings, and her general "fourness" turned out to be non issues. I should have known better. Emy is a rock star among strangers. She thrives on meeting new people and was completely in her element Thursday. Every person she encountered was a new fan she could show off to, and her cute, precocious personality shone all day long.
All in all I think it was a successful day - the Landefeld Ladies had come to Lansing and we rocked it.

The Capitol Building. Lansing, Michigan. 

Here is the statement I prepared.

Good Morning.
My name is Christy Landefeld. I am a visually impaired stay at home mom. I live in Rochester Hills, a city that I love dearly as it is the community where I grew up and where I taught elementary school for 9 years.
I lost my vision when I gave birth to my daughter Emeline, 4.5 years ago. Adjusting to motherhood can be tremendously difficult and my adjustment was made more so by my vision loss.
 Prior to 2010 I rarely thought about how limited transportation options are in suburban metro Detroit. I never needed to think about how I was going to get from one place to another. I just got in my car and went.
All that changed when I was deemed “legally blind” and therefore unable to transport myself or my daughter independently. Now every day is filled with the logistics of our transportation needs. I rely heavily on family and friends to cover the essentials of everyday life – grocery shopping, preschool drop off and pick up, doctor’s appointments. Places I NEED to go. I am lucky to have such a network, but the loss of independent transportation has hit me hard. I am so dependent on others to help fulfil these needs and this dependence can be frustrating on all involved. Life can’t always be planned.  I frequently found myself in situations where I wasn’t doing the things I wanted to do because I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone for something that wasn’t absolutely necessary.  
Uber changed all of that for me.
For the first time in 3 years I found myself with an affordable, convenient alternative that didn’t require hours or days of advance planning. I was able to take my daughter to gymnastics class, the library, our local YMCA on our own schedule. Safe, reliable transportation with courteous drivers was literally at my fingertips.
Being that I was travelling with a preschooler safety was one of my utmost concerns. Through experience I found that every Uber driver I rode with had a clean, well-maintained vehicle with a LATCH system that I could easily install my daughter’s car seat in. Several of the drivers that have provided us rides over the last 9 months have gone above and beyond in their interactions with us. One driver, Blake played Disney songs and sang along with Emy, another driver went out of his way to return a doll shoe we had accidental left behind in his car, before it was even noticed as missing.
Uber has restored a feeling of independence and autonomy in me that I thought was lost. I am so grateful to have the option of safe, affordable, and convenient transportation once again.

Thank you. 


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