Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ask the Expert: Julie Rosekrans, Training and Technical Assistance Specialist II at ESPA and Former Travel Trainer

A woman's headshot
Julie Rosekrans
Easter Seals Project ACTION is pleased to welcome Julie Rosekrans as the newest member of our team. She most recently worked at the Central Maryland Regional Transit and has experience in mobility management, travel training, human service transportation, and disability services. Rosekrans will serve as a liaison to Federal Transit Administration regions in her role at the National Center for Mobility Management. Read on to find out more about her expertise.

What is your background?

I have worked in the disability services field for nearly a decade. I first worked as a vocational counselor with The Arc, where I provided employment supports to individuals with disabilities with a focus on self-employment opportunities in Howard County, Maryland. I was with The Arc for five years before joining Central Maryland Regional Transit, where I developed a travel training program. From a young age, I felt a call to do my part to ensure equality for individuals with disabilities in my community, and that passion continues to fuel my daily work and purpose. As the travel training program manager for Central Maryland Regional Transit, I managed a team of staff that trained and provided outreach to a six-county region in Central Maryland. During my time there, I developed curricula and provided training to individuals with disabilities, older adults, veterans, students, and low-income families.          

What transportation challenges did you experience with providing employment supports to people with disabilities?

I would often work with individuals with disabilities who would find a job that was a great fit for them, but they were unable to accept offers of employment because they did not have safe, reliable, or independent transportation to get to work. I even watched a few of the clients on my caseload lose jobs they loved because paratransit services were running too late too often. Some of the clients with whom I worked were afraid to use fixed-route public transportation even though they wanted to transition from paratransit services. Another big challenge I faced was the make-up of the routes in the county. If someone did not live near a bus stop or close enough to one to be eligible for paratransit services, they would have to rely on family members or taxi cabs to get to work. 

How did you transition to travel training?  What types of training did you receive? 

I transitioned to the travel training field because I felt called to what I felt like was a unique and growing field, and it truly is!  I wanted to do my part to make the community more accessible for the amazing people with disabilities that I knew, and for the whole community, too. I enjoy training and educating people, so I felt like I could use my knowledge and background to help people who needed it. 

On my first day of work as a travel trainer, I was tasked with building the program from the ground up. I knew what I wanted the end results to be―people with disabilities being fully independent and active members of their communities―but I had limited ideas for how to get there….and then I found Easter Seals Project ACTION. 

I attended ESPA’s Introduction to Travel Training course in my first three months as a travel trainer. It was an amazing course that taught me so much about the field, and I brought back much of the information and materials to include in CMRT’s training curriculum. That class also gave me a chance to network with other travel trainers, to share resources and challenges, and to feel like I was not alone in the field. In the following months, I also attended a variety of ESPA webinars and completed the Fundamentals of Travel Training Administration course when I transitioned into management.  Experts in the accessible transportation field taught all of ESPA’s courses, and I learned so much from these trainings. 

I also learned a lot from the Association of Travel Instruction by attending their annual conference each August. ATI puts on a great conference each year, full of hands-on training and professional development for travel trainers, mobility managers, and anyone else in the field of accessible transportation. 
A woman working with a man at a table
Rosekrans works directly with a trainee (2013)

What types of travel training have you provided? 

CMRT mainly uses a train-the-trainer approach in travel training, so I worked with staff at human services agencies, school systems, and other places that support individuals with disabilities or older adults. By empowering the staff members at those agencies who know their clients best, they could, in turn, provide training to their clients on how to use public transportation. The train-the-trainer approach can be a very successful model in travel training. I also provided travel training for transitioning youth with disabilities and conducted small group trainings at various schools in the region. Last Spring, I led a community travel training workshop at a local community college, which allowed people from the community to be trained in a classroom setting and then go out on a bus. Just letting people know your program exists can be half the battle, but, once they know about it, they will use you as a resource in achieving full inclusion. 

What results from travel training did you see in the community? 

I had the pleasure of seeing great results in the community! I would see first-hand how access to safe and independent public transportation could help a person thrive. One of the most rewarding aspects of my efforts was seeing people have an increased sense of independence and pride in their ability to travel independently. I’d often be out on a bus with staff members of human service agencies and some of their clients and I’d get to watch the staff empower their clients in travel training, so that was also rewarding. 

My favorite success story was that of a man named James, who participated in our group travel training classes. He learned how to take a bus to his local community college, where he filled out an application and was accepted into a program. He now takes that bus to college twice a week and the benefits of his independence are seen just by looking at or talking to him. 

Successful travel training can also produce a number of accessibility improvements in a given community. When I would be out in the field providing training individuals with disabilities, I would recognize the environmental barriers that stood in the way of their access to transportation. Simple changes, such as moving a bus stop by 20 feet, makes the difference for someone to become an active part of the community. Travel trainers and trainees are often boots on the ground and can be the ones who recommend that those crucial changes be made. 

Final thoughts? 

Accessible transportation is a vital part of any community. First-time travel trainers have access to countless tools and resources that support training initiatives, and organizations like ESPA are there to help.

Additionally, I am so thrilled to be joining the Easter Seals Project ACTION team and to use my background on the national level. I hope to use my experience and passion in the fields of travel training, mobility management, and disability advocacy to contribute to the wonderful work that ESPA does every day. I will be working with both ESPA as well as the National Center for Mobility Management, and I look forward to bringing the voices of riders with disabilities to community mobility management projects that the NCMM will undertake. I’m ready to roll my sleeves up and get to work!

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