Tag Archives: accessibility

Thank you for helping us Share the Good

31 May

Whew, what a week!

Share Omaha’s Do Good Days is all wrapped up and in the bag for another year.

We spent the week sharing all the good that can come when people in Omaha can get around safely on sidewalks, with clean spaces, and how much communities gain when we reimagine roads.

We had several chances to share that message too:

It started with Mode Shift Omaha’s Board Chair Liz Veazey chatting with 3 News Now on Mutual of Omaha’s move downtown and the streetcar that’s coming along with it.

Mode Shift Omaha board chair on streetcar

Then FOX 42 News previewed Mode Shift Omaha’s ‘Walk with Us’ event in Blackstone

FOX 42 News previews Mode Shift ‘Walk with Us’ in Blackstone

Three stations overall covered Mode Shift Omaha’s efforts to highlight the pedestrian infrastructure changes in Blackstone. Construction on those got started the day before our walk, so a lot of it was basically paint on the ground, but things certainly looked promising when we walked the area.

WOWT talks with Mode Shift Omaha on new pedestrian changes in Blackstone

Unfortunately, the city also chose to close both sides of the sidewalk for two different construction projects. People had no choice but to walk into the street in order to get around the orange cones and taped off space.

Someone who relies on a wheelchair or otherwise has difficulty stepping onto a curb might have to walk into the street for half a block before they can get back onto the sidewalk.

Both sidewalks blocked off on Farnam near 39th

KETV speaks with Mode Shift Omaha about accessibility issues in Blackstone during construction

By Thursday, our chair, Liz, was back on KETV, this time to talk about our mission and partnership with our friends over at the Blue Bucket Project for Volun-Thursday.

With a pack of volunteers, we picked up SO. MUCH. TRASH.

We focused on the bus stops over near 72nd and Pine.

A lot of people jump off there to head to that Walmart or even the nearby college campus.

If you’ve ever been in that area, you know how messy it can get.

We hope our cleanup can help people have a nicer experience while hopping on and off Metro buses.

Hang with me here, we’re not quite done– I did say we had a busy week.

Come Saturday, we hosted a Parklet in Little Bohemia during a community market with our friends over at Family of Things.

Mode Shift Omaha’s Parklet in Little Bohemia on May 21st

Our goal is to show people the kind of good a community can feel when even one parking space is used for something else.

So, we set up our benches, rolled out the welcome rug, and shared some sparkling beverages with our friends (anyone who walks by is a friend).

Mode Shift Omaha member, Brian, speaks with some Parklet visitors about complete streets

SHARE Omaha’s Do Good Days is all wrapped up now, but you can still donate to Mode Shift Omaha to help us keep pushing for transportation equity in Omaha.

Help Mode Shift Omaha keep up the work

Even after all that, we’re still going this upcoming week.

Join us and Mode Shift Omaha member Michael Kolakowski Wednesday, June 1st at 6:30 for a screening of a series of videos from Not Just Bikes.

We’ll have a discussion in between each video and learn about a number of things to help Omaha evolve to the next level:

* City design
* Pedestrian Safety
* Affordable Housing
* Cycling and Pedestrian Infrastructure

It should be a fun event with good people and good discussion.

Details with more information on location are in the facebook event page.

Facebook event page for Not Just Bikes discussion

Five Questions for the Munroe-Meyer Institute

14 Jan

For our first Coffee Chat of 2020, we’ve invited the Munroe-Meyer Institute to join us to talk about their mission to serve the community of people living with disabilities. Join us Friday, January 17th, 8 a.m. at the Hardy’s Coffee at the Highlander.

Anne Woodruff Jameson is a physical therapist at UNMC’s Munroe-Meyer Institute. She serves students with individualized education plans (IEPs) through Omaha Public Schools and adults with developmental disabilities with issues related to women’s health and community mobility. Prior to her physical therapy school, she was a direct support worker and program manager for adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities.

Brad Corr is an Assistant Professor and physical therapist with 12+ years of clinical practice experience. He currently serves as the Director of Adult Programming in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Munroe-Meyer Institute and is enrolled as a PhD student. He is interested in promoting and tracking community based mobility and physical activity for adolescents and adults with intellectual and or developmental disabilities.

Anne and Brad are interested in how participation in physical activity can be increased with improved community mobility and access, including elimination of transportation barriers and engaging in more active forms of transit.

We asked them five questions:

1. Are their specific transportation challenges that face everyone with disabilities or do different populations present unique challenges?

The People First of Nebraska group, a group of self-advocates, put together a report addressing this question based on their lived experiences. It was shared by Liz Sigler, a self-advocate who uses public transportation daily to get to and from work. The report is quoted below, all directly quoted from the self-advocates:

We talked about problems people with disabilities have with transportation. Some of them are the same problems other people have with transportation. Some are more complicated.

o   We can’t drive a car
o   We can’t get a car
o   Cabs are expensive and we don’t have much money
o   It takes a lot of time to get from one place to another
o   We might not feel safe, maybe we’re afraid of falling off the ramp or lift
o   Living where there is no public transportation
o   Buses aren’t always running when you need them or go where you need them to go
o   MOBY only runs when the regular buses run
o   MOBY only runs close to the regular bus routes
o   We can only use MOBY if we have health problems or can’t walk to a bus stop alone
o   Sometimes when you call to get a ride the operators are rude
o   If you use a wheelchair you might not be able to get down the sidewalk
o   Lots of times the buses don’t go where the jobs are
o   Public transportation doesn’t always come on time
o   Unsafe bus drivers
o   Buses not always well taken care of
o   Bus stops can be covered with snow and ice

We thought up some things that might help:

o   Set up a transportation account with discounts for cabs, Uber, Lyft, and/or other ways to get around
o   Service providers should not stop current transportation without providing something else
o   Take better care of vehicles
o   Vehicles should be checked daily to make sure they are safe; especially lifts and ramps
o   Have local groups to discuss creative solutions for those communities
o   Find ways to have more people using public transportation
o   Make directions easy to understand
o   Longer hours of operation
o   Clear the bus stops of snow and ice”

One gentleman, who uses a power wheelchair, shared his experience of falling off a wheelchair van lift in the past. He is now scared to ride in unfamiliar transit, which greatly limits his options to access the community. He was hoping to attend the annual Arc Senatorial Dinner in Lincoln this year to advocate for disability rights but stated, “The reason I turned down Lincoln was because I am afraid of the lift and I am afraid of riding out of my way. Next year I will try it. I really want to go to Lincoln next year because I feel I can bring up some valid points. I really want people to hear what I have to say…when I ride I am a nervous cat. I have to practice my breathing techniques and wear a seat belt. That is the only way I feel safe when riding. On MOBY it is the same way. What I have to realize is that one day I may get over my fear completely…I honestly believe that if I went to Lincoln I could be a voice for them.”

2. What are the greatest transportation challenges facing people with disabilities in Omaha? 

Financial, lack of spontaneity, safety…I address these more in detail in questions 1 and 4

3. UNMC has made great strides with promoting active transportation. Has that also been to the advantage of the MMI clients?

UNMC’s TravelSmart program was thoughtfully designed and is an incredible, valuable resource for UNMC employees. It does not directly affect MMI clients since it is specifically for employees, but I like to think that any infrastructure developed that increases active transportation sets the stage for improved overall access.

4. What are some unique challenges your clients/served community encounter that the rest of the population wouldn’t expect?

Inequity in innovation:

o   Transit apps often are not accessible, accurate, and in plain language (intuitive and easy to understand)
o   Uber and Lyft are technically technology companies, which allows them to skirt the ADA regulations that transportation companies have to adhere to that mandates they have a certain percentage of accessible vehicles in their fleets. There are pending lawsuits addressing this issue.
o   Alternative modes of transit are often not accessible for people with physical disabilities such a B-cycle and Omaha’s scooter trial
o   Autonomous vehicle companies will need incentives to manufacture accessible vehicles. Retrofitting is extremely cost-prohibitive ($20-$80K to retrofit the vehicle-and most of these are already expensive vehicles to begin with). Additionally, states should be encouraged not to make laws that are more restrictive that federal ones based on fear. Some states want to require a licensed driver to always be present in an autonomous vehicle. This would be prohibitive for people with disabilities, elderly individuals, and people with medical conditions such as epilepsy who cannot get a driver’s license. These are the people who stand to benefit the most from the use of autonomous vehicles!

Vulnerability-people with physical and cognitive impairments are at a greater risk of being taken advantage of. With inconsistent transportation providers, their risk increases.

Lack of spontaneity: personally, I value transportation most for spontaneous needs. A quick trip to the store to get the chili powder you forgot for your recipe, a drink with a friend who happens to be passing through town, being able to run over to your sister’s house when she needs a baby-sitter last-minute…all those things are important to being an active, engaged adult! This isn’t an option with our current mass transit or paratransit systems, and is cost-prohibitive with on-demand ride hailing systems. MOBY requires you to book at least 24 hours in advance.

People with cognitive or sensory impairments often have trouble problem solving or responding appropriately to unanticipated events. Public transportation is rife with unanticipated events! I have heard stories about meltdowns with people with autism when a bus doesn’t show up on time or an app fails or is giving faulty information. For an adult in a public place, this can turn into a dangerous situation quickly

5. If you could magically change one thing in the Omaha with regard to transportation what would it be?

Accessible microtransit! Microtransit means on-demand transportation for everyone as an extension of regular public transportation services. Ideally this service would be fareless, low-fare, or allow people with disabilities to use their waiver monies to access it (some states already allow people to use their waiver money to access transportation, Nebraska is not currently one of them). There are a few cities that are trialing certain components of this currently. Some are using all public systems while others are using public/private partnerships. Some are using microtransit to connect people to main fixed routes, others are using it as curb-to-curb rideshares. A couple examples below.

Ex. Sioux Falls. Public transportation had limited service area and hours that prevent residents from accessing personal mobility when they need it most. To address these challenges they created the Transit Core Team, a group of 14 City of Sioux Falls employees from across nine divisions.  Together they used human-centered design to find innovative solutions. Their goal was to increase the economic benefit of public transit for residents and the City. Their solution is to launch an on-demand rideshare using their existing fleet. It operates within existing service area, same hours and fares, but it shifts fixed route service to corner-to-corner on-demand service using an app and virtual bus stops. All virtual stops are all 1-3 blocks from home. They are launching a 12 month pilot beginning July 2020 on Saturdays, will iterate if successful.

Ex. Kansas City just made their public transit fareless. Some cities have found that they are only recouping a minimal percentage of their fares because it costs a lot to run the fare system (software, cards, employees to manage systems) but they still must keep fares low so people can afford to ride. They also recently piloted a curb-to-curb on-demand microtransit program in Johnson County, a suburb of Kansas City. It runs 6 am – 8 pm daily with 4 vehicles. Is has served 100 customers a day since its inception in February 2019.

What could a public/private partnership look like? In Omaha, there are day programs who have their own fleets of vans and buses to get people to/from their programs in the early morning and late afternoon. Some vehicles are used during the day for community outings, but otherwise are just sitting around all day and night.

Most importantly in planning, listen to your customers first! Don’t plan a system in response to pressures from boards, politicians, and organizations alone because it is unlikely to meet the needs of your actual riders, and therefore will not be successful or sustainable.