[IMAGE]paratransit-6.jpg[/IMAGE]July 26 marked the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law that guarantees people of all ages with disabilities an equal opportunity to take part in our society. Access to transportation services is key to full community participation and for the past 22 years, Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) has worked to bring the transportation and disability communities together to ensure that access is a reality for all.
As one young man told ESPA staff at a recent event, "I want to live a spontaneous life." Without access to transportation, that is not possible. What a great vision statement for the next 20 years of the ADA: Spontaneous Living for All!
Many ADA mandates were accomplished in the first decade following its passage. During the last decade, the list of issues addressed and accomplishments made continued to grow. These accomplishments have resulted in public transportation providers' ability to better serve people with disabilities.
As celebrations of the milestone ADA anniversary took place across the country, ESPA, too, marked that important milestone with the launch of an ESPA Talks Paratransit Online Dialogue. During the virtual town hall forum, which was held July 26 through Aug. 5, participants were asked to submit, comment and rate ideas related to paratransit service provision.
Promote universal access
ESPA, funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. DOT and FTA, provides training, technical assistance, applied research and outreach on accessible transportation. Its mission is to promote universal access to transportation for people with disabilities under federal law and beyond by partnering with transportation providers and the disability community.
Social media technology is now allowing ESPA to take these core activities a step further by hosting dynamic, online discussions where participants from across the country can post ideas and practices, share their experience, and learn from each other in a supportive environment.
Building on the experience and success of a United We Ride dialogue on coordinated transportation services that ESPA co-hosted with the National Academy of Public Administration in November 2009, this dialogue provided a new opportunity for everyone from public and private transportation providers to federal, state and local transportation professionals, as well as everybody in between, to discuss how paratransit providers are meeting the needs of their customers in this challenging economic market.
During the dialogue, approximately 1,163 unique visitors from every state made 2,363 visits to the site. Fifty-six percent of participants listed "people with disabilities" as the primary population they represent, 43 percent of participants came from urban areas, and 64 percent identified their organizations as non-profit or local government. Although the dialogue is now closed for comment, the Website remains open so that those who are interested can visit, read the comments and investigate ideas to pursue at the community level.
Further analysis of the dialogue results, including emerging themes and key recommendations, is currently under way. Once complete, which is expected to be in fall 2010, a report on topics participants shared, participant feedback and statistics from the dialogue will be published and made available on ESPA's Website in its online store at no cost.
C. Marie Maus is the director of marketing and communications for Easter Seals Project ACTION, National Center on Senior Transportation & Other Transportation Initiatives.