ADA sensitivity training makes drivers MCTS' 'most valuable asset'

Posted on November 1, 2018 by Chris Fox - Also by this author

A portion of Milwaukee County Transit System's ADA Sensitivity Training includes a sight-guided exercise. Photo: MCTS
A portion of Milwaukee County Transit System's ADA Sensitivity Training includes a sight-guided exercise. Photo: MCTS
Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) bus operators are receiving positive attention from around the world. The storylines are always consistent, involving a driver going above and beyond their job description in order to help someone in need.

Whether they’re assisting a passenger in a wheelchair who is stuck in a pothole or helping a rider who is visually-impaired get across a busy street, our bus operators are eager to lend a helping hand.

Their big and small acts of kindness while on the job are nothing new. But the 10 high-definition cameras mounted on each bus in our fleet are. Our Marketing Department, as part of an innovative campaign called “MCTS Excellence”, has been able to use this surveillance video to tell positive stories highlighting drivers’ good deeds.  

These stories of MCTS Excellence are frequently picked up by local, state, national and international media outlets. The videos and social media posts have been viewed and shared hundreds of millions of times. 

Many of our drivers credit their headline-grabbing actions to the extensive training they received from MCTS before hitting the road for the first time.

In 2012, MCTS acknowledged that an increasing number of seniors and people with disabilities, especially those using wheelchairs and scooters, were using fixed-route buses.

The New Freedom Team, which is funded by an FTA Mobility Management grant, worked with the MCTS Training Division to develop enhanced ADA Sensitivity Training for all new bus operators.

The training sessions, which were expanded from 45-minute sessions to a full day, include:

  • Discussions on hidden disabilities and common stereotypes
  • Training videos, produced by the New Freedom Team, that show students the best ways to assist individuals with disabilities while using the bus
  • Proper securement procedures for passengers who use mobility devices
  • Real-life passengers who have disabilities conduct Q&A with students
  • Students operate a scooter and power wheelchair onto several different styles of buses and practice securing them
  • Students wear goggles simulating different visual impairments during a sighted-guide exercise

Photo: MCTS
Photo: MCTS
The portion of the ADA Sensitivity Training that seems to leave the biggest impression with students is the sighted-guide exercise. In it, one student wears a blindfold while another practices leading and describing a path of travel from the indoor classroom to a bus stop down the block. After they complete a full lap back and forth, the students switch roles.

A TV news crew that attended a recent training session recorded video of a student wiping away tears after completing the sighted-guide exercise. The student explained that it was very emotional for her to experience what passengers with visual impairments go through every day.

There is always a positive vibe at the end of the ADA Sensitivity Training. That enthusiasm then carries over to each new driver’s first days out in regular service.

Photo: MCTS
Photo: MCTS
Due to positive operator feedback and MCTS’ continued emphasis on safety and customer service, the ADA Sensitivity Training is going to be expanded once again. It will soon include a day-and-a-half worth of activities and instruction. This will allow the students even more time to practice learning the skills that they will need to help passengers in the community.

Thanks to all of the positive exposure and attention from around the globe, the general public is starting to realize what we’ve known all along: MCTS operators are our most valuable asset. Their skills, dedication, compassion and kindness make them much more than “just” a bus driver; they’re often a rider’s best friend.

Chris Fox is the Mobility Coordinator for the Milwaukee County Transit System.

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