Travel training helps people with disabilities navigate public transit


Travel training helps people with disabilities navigate public transit

By Melissa Jordan

BART Senior Web Producer

At age 84, following a stroke, Mary Jones of Hayward had to give up driving.

But Jones did not give up on being active – thanks to a can-do attitude, support from friends and family, and Community Resources for Independent Living (CRIL), a peer-based disability resource agency that helps her with new skills such as taking public transit.

One recent morning, Jones came to the Hayward BART Station for travel training with Esperanza Diaz-Alvarez, an independent living coordinator and travel trainer for CRIL.
Jones had taken BART in the past, before her disability, but had never navigated the system using a walker as she does now.

READY TO GO

“Let’s go,” she said, rolling alongside Diaz-Alvarez, who uses a wheelchair, down the ramp into the BART station.

Diaz-Alvarez demonstrated how to use the wider, accessible faregate, with plenty of room for Jones’ wheeled walker with built-in seat to move through. Together they took the elevator up to the platform to wait for the train.

Diaz-Alvarez said that, as a person with a disability herself, she can relate to the people she trains who are reluctant at first to try public transit.

“It can be inconvienent,” she said, noting issues such as elevator outages or obstacles blocking access that can make it very difficult for people with disabilities on transit. She said signage to ramps, adequate notice of outages and attention from BART personnel all help to create a better experience for riders with disabilities. “Station agents are vital,” she said. (All BART station agents receive training on how to help riders with disabilities and mobility impairments during the certification and recertification training processes.)

As Jones learned about the BART system with Diaz-Alvarez,  Sheri Burns, executive director of CRIL, watched in the background and talked more about the agency’s services.

WORKING TOWARD SELF-SUFFICIENCY

“We want people with disabilities to find out that they can take public transit,” Burns said. “We take them out one-on-one like this, and also on group trips, like to the ballet or sports events, until they feel comfortable using transit on their own. We help people to achieve as much self-sufficiency as they can.”

“Mary is an ideal candidate” for travel training, Burns said. “She has the will, the interest and the enthusiasm to try something new.”

After their short ride on the train, Jones and Diaz-Alvarez returned and reversed their process, taking the elevator back down, going out the accessible faregate and exiting the station via the ramp.

How did the travel training go?

“No problem,” Jones said. “It was very easy.” In fact, she said, with the walker, “I had a place to sit down.”

“Mass transit is very good,” Jones said. “It gets the population where they need to go.”

FREE SERVICES

The travel training benefits not only people with disabilities, but also their caregivers. Jones’ daughter, Linda Caulboy, talked about the services while her mother took the BART trip with Diaz-Alvarez.

“She was in the first class” of travel training, Caulboy said. The program is relatively new for the Hayward-based CRIL, having just started in July 2012 with funding from Hayward Paratransit and Measure B funds. Services are free.  Similar programs exist at independent living agencies throughout the Bay Area.

Jones has always led a busy, active life, her daughter said, and before retirement worked her way up from  kitchen worker to manager of meal programs at area schools, in addition to taking on retail jobs. Caulboy said the travel training program opened up new opportunities for her mother to enjoy more activities in her golden years.

“We jumped at it,” she said.

They’ve taken BART into San Francisco for special events such as seeing the musical Wicked, as well as for shopping and outings with friends visiting from other places.
“It is hard watching my mother get older,” she said, “but I’ve cherished this time with her so much.”

BART maintains an elevator status hotline. To check the operational status of station elevators before arriving at the station, call 510-834-LIFT or 888-2-ELEVAT.  BART provides elevator advisories via web, mobile web, email and text messaging. For more information visit http://bart.gov/advisories/. The Operations Control Center also makes systemwide public address announcements about elevator status.

MORE RESOURCES AND INFORMATION:

CRIL: http://crilhayward.org/
BART Accessible Services: http://www.bart.gov/guide/accessibility/index.aspx