Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year

On behalf of all of us at Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) and Easter Seals Transportation Group, we wish everyone a bright holiday season and a happy New Year!

2011 was a year of substantial growth for public transportation—according to the American Public Transportation Association over 51 million more trips were taken in the last quarter of 2011 than in the same period in 2010―and the need for more transportation options continues to grow. In recent congressional testimony, Billy Altom, executive director of the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living stated, “Lack of public transportation is one of the most serious, persistent problems reported by people with disabilities who live in rural America.” The National Council on Independent Living notes, “…there is still a substantial lack of accessible and affordable transportation. This absence poses serious barriers to employment, health care, and full participation into society by individuals with disabilities and older Americans […].”

To address the growing need for accessible public transportation, the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) initiatives in 2011 included:

·       new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and level boarding regulations,
·       the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Capital Grants Program,
·       programs within the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Livability Initiative as well as within the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities among U.S. DOT, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,
·       the first ever conference on person-directed mobility management, and
·       a new United We Ride strategic plan with a focus on jobs, health and wellness, and coordination through access to transportation on behalf of people with disabilities, seniors and people with limited income.

In 2011, ESPA staff worked diligently to support our mission and address accessible transportation challenges. We created 11 new materials, with over 22 new products issued in the last two years. The demand for our services continued to expand—e-newsletter subscriptions increased by 61%. We now implement or take part in an average of eight events per month with participation from or collaboration with over 30 organizations. Over the last ten years, our Mobility Planning Services program assisted 159 teams, often providing targeted technical assistance for several years after completion of the facilitated planning sessions. This year, we released a ten-year retrospective of this program to share best practices and successes from some of these teams. As Bryna Helfer, director of public engagement at U.S. DOT, notes in her foreword to the retrospective, “We all know, however, that bringing about change is a complex process. It requires us to look at all of our transportation resources in the community and explore the potential for enhancing connectivity. It requires a willingness to come together to identify the challenges as well as the opportunities. It requires cooperation and coordination.”

2012 will mark the third year in a row where we venture out to ten communities to hold Accessible Transportation Coalition Initiative activities. These events, based on the Mobility Planning Services program, help local teams achieve systems-change goals to increase access to transportation for people with disabilities of all ages. Next year, major initiatives include youth transition to career and college through access to transportation, the intersection of health and transportation, independent living and mobility management, veterans’ transportation, multi-cultural sensitivity and accessible transportation, the expansion of travel training, and supporting the implementation of the new FTA ADA rules.

All of us at Easter Seals Transportation Group look forward to continuing to assist in the growth of accessible transportation through collaboration, cooperation, and coordination. We are honored to do this work, and all who meet us know of our deep commitment to mobility through transportation that fosters inclusion and independence for everyone. Thank you for connecting with us in 2011, and please visit our website, use our materials, attend our training, network with us at events, and let us know how we can continue to improve and expand what we do. May the New Year bring your communities closer to achieving access for all, anytime, anywhere, through easily navigable transportation modes that serve everyone.

Photo above includes staff at Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) and Easter Seals Transportation Group. Text below the photo reads, “Thank you for supporting our work in 2011.
We wish you success and smooth travels in 2012!
Easter Seals Project ACTION, Easter Seals Transportation Group"

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