Showing posts with label inclusion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label inclusion. Show all posts

Friday, November 1, 2013

Engaging People with Disabilities in the Kansas Health Impact Assessment Project

Report Cover
Inclusive coordinated transportation planning efforts help to ensure that all voices in a community are heard, which is especially important for people with disabilities, people with low income, older adults, and others who depend on public transit. In preparation for a decision about the future Wichita transit system, the Kansas Health Institute in collaboration with local partners and the community of Wichita, Kansas, undertook a massive health impact assessment (HIA) of transit services for various groups of people. Below, Catherine Shoults, health analyst at the Kansas Health Institute (KHI), details how people with disabilities were engaged in the process. 

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One of the basic tenets of HIA is engaging the community and incorporating the community voice in the assessment. Additionally, community engagement is critical for understanding the potential effects of the policy or legislation on the local population. This is especially true for people who do not drive, such as those with disabilities, as they might be disproportionately affected by policy changes. In order to engage people with disabilities and other non-drivers in the transit HIA process, KHI partnered with the University of Kansas School of Medicine – Wichita (KU). Our KU partners had relationships with local disability organizations, such as the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging and the National Federation of the Blind.

During the HIA process, we learned a few lessons regarding how to maximize the  disability community’s experience and engagement in the HIA. For instance, we learned that the best way to work with one of the representatives from the blind community was to send her the materials in advance whenever possible and to make sure that one of our team members was nearby during in-person meetings to verbally describe the visuals. We were also very fortunate because one of our stakeholders worked closely with the representative for the blind community and he was very comfortable describing visual elements to her. He would also pick her by car up to come to our meetings, which was invaluable.

Woman presenting to a small audience

Tatiana Lin, project director and strategy team leader at KHI,
presenting the results of the HIA to the Wichita City Council
The insights provided by people with disabilities, older adults, people with low-incomes, and other non-drivers helped us to shape the HIA findings and recommendations and make sure that they focus on the needs of those who do not drive. For example, one of the recommendations focused on the need to locate bus stops near service locations and connect them to sidewalks and pedestrian paths in order to improve access to buses.

We also have to commend the Wichita Transit agency for working very hard to keep the needs of non-drivers in mind. Often a representative from Wichita Transit would point out what they were doing and how they hoped to improve their service to the disability or older adult community.

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By engaging the disability community in their HIA, Wichita is better able to create a coordinated transit plan that serves all members of the community. See the results of the full analysis published in the online report, Potential Health Effects of Proposed Public Transit Concepts in Wichita. For more examples of Health Impact Assessments, see the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, through which Wichita received a grant for their project. For more resources on inclusive coordinated planning efforts, visit ESPA’s webpage, Planning and Public Participation.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Victory in Civil Rights―with More Finish Lines Ahead

Contributed by Carol Wright

This morning, an older adult who uses a walker boarded a bus by the lift to get to her volunteer position one town over.  A woman who is blind used an accessible pedestrian signal to hear when it was okay to cross the street, and then she completed her grocery shopping. Colleagues entered a subway car to get to a meeting across town, and their manager who uses a wheelchair easily led them onto the train without a second thought.

Many aspects of accessibility, such as elevators at subway station or signals at intersections, are normalcies today that could easily be taken for granted. Most of us would not think twice about having students, with and without learning disabilities, attend the same school or of riding the bus with someone who uses a wheelchair. Inclusion and the ability to pursue an independent life are tenets of American society with which our children have grown up. These values were not a part of our nation’s fabric, however, until the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed 23 years ago this month.

On July 26, 1990, when President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law, he changed the future not only for millions of Americans with disabilities and their families but also for the companies that needed to hire qualified employees, the universities that were looking for competitive students, and the communities that needed advocates to reach out to marginalized residents. As transportation became more accessible under the ADA, people with disabilities were able to live independently within communities, attain employment and support their families as well as vacation, attend entertainment venues and support the economy as consumers. Buses with ramps and lifts, paratransit vans, and curb ramps have made inclusion more of a reality, but we have further to go.

This year, for the first time, I am celebrating the anniversary of the ADA as the senior director of accessible transportation at Easter Seals. Having worked in transit, human services transportation, and aging and disability services, I am excited to meld my diverse experiences and help communities continue to make their transportation services more accessible. I have been to many communities across the country, including those in tribal and rural regions, and have seen first-hand how accessible transportation can transform an area. Our nation has made much progress in 23 years, and I look forward to keeping that momentum going through leading Easter Seals Project ACTION.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration, our funder, has remained committed to accessibility and inclusion in our nation’s transportation systems. ESPA thanks former U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood for his years of service and welcomes Secretary Anthony Foxx. In a tight economy, much work still needs to be done.  ESPA will continue to work with our partners and groups across the country to support fully inclusive communities where all people—regardless of ability—can pursue an independent life.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Strengthening Transportation Choices So We Can Serve Those Who Have Served Their Country

Contributed by Mary Leary

Many thanks to everyone who took the time help us support participation in the National Online Dialogue on Veterans' Transportation as we’ve had excellent success in meeting the goal for the event – to learn how to address barriers and increase access to transportation from both the veterans and provider community.

As of last Wednesday, over 1,400 people visited the site. Over 340 participants shared more than 165 comments, 348 votes, and 51 ideas. We launched the event at the APTA Bus and Paratransit Conference and promoted it heavily again at this week’s CTAA EXPO. U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) leadership have all publicized this event heavily in their blogs, with videos and in recent speeches - during FTA Administrator Rogoff’s keynote to Expo attendees this week he noted the dialogue. The White House cross-posted Secy. LaHood’s blog on the dialogue. The level of participation in terms of ideas is almost twice that of any of our previous dialogues – over 6 ideas per registrant. This participation rate shows the strong level of interest people have in suggesting specific actions that they themselves see of benefit to serve veterans.

Participants have primary interest across various stakeholder groups: public transportation (28%), veterans’ services (22%), human services transportation (11%), medical transportation (6%), disability services (4%), employment/workforce (3%), and planning (3%). Please help us with one last major push to get more ideas, to get folks to vote on the ideas that are there or comment upon the ideas. In our final report, we hope to clearly lay out the top ideas with the most votes to assist FTA, the VA and our other Federal Partners with discrete actions that can be the next step in our movement to: “Strengthen Transportation Choices So We Can Serve Those Who Have Served Their Country.” The messages in the dialogue make it very clear that we have a lot of work to do, but there are some solutions. 

It is truly an honor to be a part of this important effort. As we head into a holiday weekend where we all remember those who gave their lives for our country, it reminds me of our obligation to do our part for those we still have with us. To add your voice, visit the dialogue

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Accessible Paths of Travel Highlighted at 3rd Annual Walk and Roll

On May 8, as part of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) 2012 Bus and Paratransit Conference in Long Beach, Calif., ESPA co-hosted the third annual Walk & Roll! Wellness Event with APTA and Long Beach Transit.  

Michael Melaniphy, APTA president and chief executive officer, welcomed the group. Mary Leary, assistant vice president of Easter Seals Transportation Group, provided a brief description of the event’s origin, and Cynde Soto, a member of the Long Beach Transit Paratransit Advisory Committee, gave a short description of the paratransit options and how they are integrated into the full Long Beach transit system.  

Pictured from left to right are Michael Melaniphy, Mary Leary and Cynde Soto  (Source: ESPA)

This accessible event was open to everyone and provided participants with an opportunity to share an afternoon stroll that highlighted the importance of accessible paths of travel to transportation for everyone in our communities, including people with disabilities. Walk & Roll! participants also walked through Long Beach’s Transit Gallery, a section of town where the bus stop shelters, sidewalks and surrounding structures are enhanced with the work of local artists. As one participant remarked, "Walk and Roll is an excellent event for fun, fitness, friendship and integration!"

3rd Annual Walk & Roll! Participants Gather for a Photo (Source: APTA)

The Walk & Roll! begins after receiving brief instructions (Source: ESPA)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Preview of New Communication and Meeting Etiquette Pocket Guide

Cover Photo of Pocket Guide
Cover Photo of Pocket Guide
Contributed by Julia Kim

ESPA Viewpoints is pleased to share a preview of Including People with Disabilities: Communication & Meeting Etiquette pocket guide, a new resource and publication which will be available in ESPA's Store this week. This pocket guide offers tips and considerations for engaging with people disabilities in meetings and conversations.

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"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Take the Future by the Horns

Contributed by Judy L. Shanley

The theme of the 16th Annual Division on Career Development & Transition (DCDT) Conference, Take the Future by the Horns, is also a theme that resonates the spirit and direction of ESPA work related to students and schools. The national event offered something for everybody. Held in Kansas City, MO, the meeting was an opportunity for over 400 educators, transition specialists, students, family members, researchers, and human service organization representatives to come together to address topics related to secondary transition for youth with disabilities. The range of conference sessions enabled attendees to hear about transition practices analyzed by the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC); learn about State infrastructures and evaluating systems of collaboration from nationally recognized University of Kansas researchers, Pattie Noonan and Mary Morningstar; and offer advice to ESPA staff, Mary Leary and Judy Shanley, during a focus group session about school-based transportation education.

Especially exciting was the commitment of the DCDT Board in response to activities proposed by ESPA related to strengthening our work about accessible transportation with schools and districts. ESPA staff heard repeatedly “limited transportation options for students has an impact on the community-based experiences that students have while they are in school, and also affects the opportunities that all students have once they leave high school”. DCDT Board and members expressed support for ESPA in our focus to assist educators, transition specialists, students, and families learn about transportation services and offered their continued support as partners with us in these efforts. ESPA will take the future by the horns to develop additional materials for educators, pilot new school-based initiatives, and continue to examine how transportation education can be integrated in student transition planning and academic standards, especially related to 21st century skills.

Partnerships with national organizations such as DCDT enable ESPA to access educators and transition specialists who can provide input to our materials, training, and technical assistance. Their contributions will help shape our work to strengthen coordinated transportation services for students to access community based experiences while in school. Importantly, our partnerships with organizations such as DCDT will guide our activities related to student use of accessible transportation to succeed in post school employment, education, and independent living settings.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Breaking Down Barriers to Rides

Coordination Changing Lives in Allen County, Ohio
Contributed by Rik Opstelten

For organizations working to improve access to community transportation, the importance of their efforts is underscored by the stories from people whose lives changed as a result of access to transportation. When communities come together to coordinate and improve transportation options, barriers to rides are broken down for people who need a ride. To that end, here are a few shining examples of how the lives of two individuals transformed after their community came together to help them find a ride.

In 2010, Allen County, Ohio took part in ESPA’s AccessibleTransportation Coalitions Initiative (ATCI). This meeting brought together a growing coalition that includes the disability community, the local Easter Seals affiliate, transportation providers, and county and regional planning officials who work together to coordinate transportation in Allen County and the region. Administered by the Area Agency on Aging 3, the coalition, called the Future of Accessible/Coordinated Transportation Services (FACTS), operates a one-call referral system to help people find a ride. FACTS also operate a last-resort fund to provide transportation to people who might otherwise fall through the cracks of existing eligibility requirements.

“The great thing about our call center and FIND A RIDE program is that it is structured around what our community already provides,” says Erica Petrie, FACTS coordinator. “We don’t offer just another transportation service. Rather we fill in the gaps.  Our call center staff works to ensure that the caller knows about transportation options that are already available to them in the community.  When there is nothing available, we can set up transportation through our FIND A RIDE program for those over 60 or under 60 with a disability. With each person who gets a ride, we feel we are accomplishing our goal.” 

What does it mean when someone is able to call one knowledgeable source to learn what resources exist to get them where they need to go? A world opens up, as it has for one 46-year-old woman with a disability who has decided to go back to school to get her GED. Her night classes end at 7 p.m. after the fixed-route service has stopped running. Thanks to FACTS and Good Rides, a transportation service operated by the local Goodwill Easter Seals affiliate, she is not only able to go to school and return home, but she can get the education she wants to pursue her dreams.

“Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley understands that the people we serve need to be mobile in the community, able to access every aspect of community life for educational, social, or work purposes,” stated Michelle Caserta, program/transportation coordinator, Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley.  “Our participation in ATCI and the FACTS coalition help us play a key part in seeing that every possible community resource is utilized toward that end.  Such coordination helps us ensure that this is only one of many successes we are proud to contribute.”

Other people have had their lives changed due to accessible transportation, such as an older woman who is now able to go to medical appointments on her own for the first time in twenty five years. Her husband used to take her where she needed to go, but after he passed away, her daughter assumed that role. As often happens, however, her daughter’s schedule does not always allow her to give her mother a ride. Thanks to the connections made by FACTS, the woman is now able to go to medical appointments on her own and has a new sense of pride and independence.

These are just two people from one community whose stories represent what is possible when a group breaks down barriers to accessible transportation and creates opportunities for community involvement.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Strengthening Communities with Transportation

Contributed by NiKette Banks and Rachel Beyerle

The Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) 40th National Meeting and Training Conference held July 16-19 in Philadelphia was informative and exciting. The conference theme was “Are We There Yet?” in regard to the transportation industry and how it has evolved over time.  During the educational sessions and workshops, we learned and shared about the great progress in transportation as well as how much further we need to go to get THERE. 

For COMTO part of getting THERE is welcoming the many diverse contributions, accomplishments and advocacy efforts from not only their stakeholders and members but from all leaders and professionals in the transportation industry. The transportation industry is on target to meet this goal.  The industry is taking action and moving in the right direction with optimism and great determination to make a difference and to get outcomes.  For example, we talk about being able to pass the torch and getting the next generation of leaders prepared to work and lead in the transportation industry.  COMTO has placed great value and resources into working with youth.  They have an internship and scholarship program structured to provide students from different backgrounds, cultures and with different interests from various high schools and universities across the country with the necessary/required tools, support and mentorships to get to that next level.  In addition, COMTO has been an advocate for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) and at the forefront for working with organizations to provide opportunities and participation for DBEs.  As a first time attendees of COMTO, the experience was positive, and there was a true sense of community among participants.

COMTO’s focus on the importance of community extends beyond the organization itself and was reflected in a number of conference breakout sessions.  For example, the session Livability Approaches to Transportation Action Priorities in the District of Columbia featured a ward-level livability study currently underway in Far Northeast D.C.  Residents and commuters are invited to participate in public workshops, identify priorities for traffic and pedestrian improvements.  The study's website includes an interactive map where the public can pinpoint comments to specific intersections, roads and parks.  Taking community inclusion a step further, Denver’s Regional Transportation District discussed its first-of-its-kind Workforce Initiative Now (WIN) program whereby members of the local workforce, including military veterans, are given practical training and placed into career positions tied to regional transportation projects.  

Historically, many transportation decisions have been made FOR a community. These two programs are examples of how transportation decisions are being made WITH a community in mind…and with a spirit of inclusion that is part of COMTO’s core values.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The ADA and 21 Years of Progress

Contributed by Donna Smith

July 26 is a date that will never slip by unnoticed for me. Twenty-one years ago the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. The ADA is a civil rights law which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. If it was something I could hold in my hands, it would be my ticket to full inclusion in society.

Each morning as I wait at the bus stop, I hear an automated announcement of the route and destination every time a bus pulls up and opens its doors. This allows me the chance to pick the bus I want to board without assistance. Most times the operator kneels the bus to lower the step and while this is not strictly necessary for me, the older I get, the more I appreciate the service. I board the bus, pay my fare and take a seat. The bus pulls away, and I take out my MP3 player and sit back to enjoy reading a book. At this point, I feel like every other commuter on the bus. I’m just another professional going into the office. So far, my ticket to full inclusion is working nicely!

Following the Title II Part B requirements for public transportation, many providers have been able to gradually replace older buses with newer ones that are better equipped to provide accessible service. Some transit systems have been able to install automated announcement systems which not only announce the route and destination of the bus each time the doors open, but which also announce most stops as the bus approaches. Still other systems have worked diligently to train their operators to call out the stops and to understand the value this brings to the customer. Both allow me and other customers who are blind to board the right bus and deboard as we like independently. Having the same sense of orientation of where I am and where I am going as do all other transit customers goes a long way toward reducing the stress of independent travel.

Nevertheless, full inclusion can be elusive. Two stops later on my commute, someone gets on the bus and takes the seat next to me. After a few seconds, she says, “That’s a wonderful dog you have there,” referring to my service dog who is tucked under my seat and is taking advantage of her commute time to nap. With a surreptitious press of the button to stop my book I reply, “Yes, she is. Thank you,” and then press the button to start reading again. Next I hear “I just think it’s marvelous how they can train those dogs to take care of people like you.” This time I don’t interrupt my reading and just say “She’s a very good dog.” “It’s just amazing how she knows which bus to take and I guess she must know right where you’re going. Where are you going today, honey?”

Taking out my ear buds, I turn to her and say, “I’m on my way to work, and my dog actually has no clue which bus to take or where I’m going.” I then attempt to explain how people who are blind can live, work and play independently and the role of guide dogs as politely as possible. When I am able to return to reading, it is with a little inner sigh that while I can get on the bus and go to work just like everyone else, not all of my fellow passengers are so readily accepting of my equality.

As the training manager for ESPA I am privileged to listen to many stories from both transportation providers and transportation customers with disabilities, and there is no doubt in my mind that the passage of the ADA and the 21 years of refining its implementation has had a very positive impact on accessible transportation services. As a result, a lot of people have also been educated about those of us with disabilities and how we fought for the passage of the ADA not only to get on the bus, but to be treated as equals by our fellow citizens. Nearly a century ago (1916) Helen Keller said in a speech “All I ask, gentlemen, is a fair field and no favor.” These words still beat true in the heart of the disability movement today. Every day that I have the opportunity to provide training and technical assistance around accessible transportation is another opportunity to move us a little closer to the overall goal of full inclusion.

As I continue my commute into work, my bus neighbor gets off and someone else takes her seat. After a few seconds he says “Excuse me,” and I pull out my ear buds. “I’m sorry to bother you,” my new bus neighbor continues, “but I need to get to 17th and L. Can you tell me how to get there?” With a smile I tell him he needs to get off at the next stop, go to the corner, turn left to cross the street and continue on to the next corner to find his destination. “Thanks,” he says. “Pretty dog!” Thank you!” I say. Sometimes, my ticket to full inclusion works absolutely!