August 2011

On Paratransit: ESPA offers tools for paratransit

by Whitney E. Gray

Paratransit systems allow people with disabilities who are unable to regularly access fixed-route systems to fully participate in their communities.

Paratransit systems allow people with disabilities who are unable to regularly access fixed-route systems to fully participate in their communities.
Increasing cutbacks in fixed-route systems has placed a strain on both paratransit operations and people with disabilities who rely on public bus and rail systems to get to work, social activities and other places.

As the subject of paratransit operations evolves, Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) continues to promote cooperation between the transportation industry and the disability community. Located in Washington, D.C., Project ACTION offers numerous print and online resources, as well as in-person and online training and technical assistance, in an effort to make the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) work for everyone, every day.

Project ACTION's paratransit-focused events in June included the 10-week course, "Excellence in Service for Paratransit Managers," a free, virtual training course designed for ADA complementary-paratransit managers who are new to the field. Content highlighted the history of the disability movement and how to engage the disability community in the participants' service areas. This course is offered periodically by Project ACTION; check the website for the most up-to-date course listings.

Learning sessions
Following the start of the 10-week course, Project ACTION hosted two paratransit Q&A distance-learning sessions focused on paratransit operations — one with Project ACTION staff and the other with staff from FTA — as part of its "Promising Practice and Solutions in Accessible Transportation" series. "Paratransit Operations Q&A" with the FTA, a pre-recorded session, featured Sue Clark, technical lead for ADA technical assistance as well as paratransit and fixed-route compliance reviews, and Dawn Sweet, the technical lead for ADA-complaint resolution. Clark and Sweet answered key paratransit operations questions regularly received by the FTA Office of Civil Rights, including such topics as pick-up times and windows, rider responsibilities and service areas. The recording of this event and its transcripts are now available on the Project ACTION website.

Likewise, the recording and transcript for "Paratransit Q&A with ESPA," a live session featuring Project ACTION staff members Ken Thompson, coordinator of technical and information services, and Donna Smith, training manager, are now available online. Thompson and Smith answered questions regarding paratransit operations and eligibility and discussed best practices for delivering efficient, customer-friendly paratransit service.

Online
Additionally, Project ACTION offers multiple resources regarding paratransit operations through its free, online store including a guide on communication technology and a bookmark on customer rights and responsibilities. The "Guide to Effective Communication Technology for Paratransit Service (Findings in Brief)" provides an overview of current and emerging communication technology for paratransit service operations and details the effect communication technology has on intake and registration, trip booking, ride arrival time and no-show occurrences. Technologies discussed in the guide include telephone; interactive voice response (IVR); relay services for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech impairments; Web-based information; and teletypewriter/telecommunications devices (TTY/TDD). Available in both English and Spanish, the "Paratransit Customer Rights and Responsibilities Bookmark" is an easy-to-carry reference that details the rights guaranteed to paratransit customers under the ADA and the responsibilities passengers have when using ADA paratransit. All resources in the Project ACTION store are available in alternative accessible formats upon request.

To sign up for training and technical assistance activities, or to find more resources on paratransit operations or other areas related to accessible transportation, visit www.projectaction.org or call 800-659-6428; TDD 202-347-7385.

 


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