[IMAGE]Metro-resize.jpg[/IMAGE]In January, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) will launch a two-year, $1.2 million project to expand its travel training offerings for people with disabilities and seniors.

Largely funded with a grant from the Federal Transit Administration's New Freedom and Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) programs, the project will allow three regional non-profit Centers for Independent Living (CILs) in the jurisdictions Metro serves — Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia — to hire six travel trainers who will work one-on-one with those who need training.

A major portion of the project will focus on helping low income people with significant disabilities learn how to travel to and from job sites and employment-related activities. Eligible participants who complete travel training will receive a free reduced fare SmarTrip card preloaded with $50 in fare to pay for rides on public transportation, according to Metro.

"Currently we offer a day-long travel training for people with disabilities and senior citizens to teach them how to use the regular accessible bus and rail system," says Rikki Epstein, Metro's ADA operations manager. "For many people, that's sufficient. But there are a lot of people for whom one day is just not going to cut it in terms of being able to use public transportation independently. We knew there was an unmet need."

During the course of the two-year project, Metro hopes to train 600 customers, with each individual receiving on average between 32 hours to 34 hours of personalized training. "The trainers will do an introductory screening interview and assessment to determine the individual's needs, interests and skill level related to traveling, and then they will set up a plan with that person to provide extensive travel training - how to plan trips and travel safely and independently on the bus and rail systems throughout our region," Epstein says.

Metro and CIL staff will conduct outreach to publicize the project and refer people with disabilities to the appropriate organization for training. Metro customers who are blind or have low vision will be referred to Metro's certified orientation and mobility specialist.

 

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