Editor’s Note: National AccessAbility Week is May 28 to June 3. It’s a time for Edmontonians and Canadians everywhere to adopt the spirit of inclusion and accessibility. Because Edmontonians like Brett and Daniel deserve it.
Hermanutz, in his late 30s, lives with an intellectual disability and has some trouble with verbal communication. He works part time at Safeway. The only way he felt safe getting to work was in a car driven by a family member.
Until he met Vicki Gudelj, Edmonton Transit Service’s Accessible Transit Coordinator and transit travel trainer. Gudelj leads the Mobility Choices Training Program, which is geared towards helping seniors and people with disabilities learn to take transit, and by doing so, become more independent and participate more fully in the community.
“Brett and I met on several occasions, and I accompanied him on various work commute trips until he felt confident taking his three-bus, two-connection trip to work at different times of day,” said Gudelj.
“Once he mastered the work commute, he felt more and more comfortable taking trips by himself to other destinations and has become interested in using electronic tools to get transit information,” Gudelj said. “On our last training trip together, Brett learned how to take the bus to his baseball club activities and is able to make his own plans and not always depend on others to drive him.”
Daniel Vu knows his routes.
Vu, 28, works part time at the University of Alberta and lives with Down Syndrome. He was a regular customer on Route 128 until ETS changed the direct route to campus avoid construction on Groat Bridge. Now, Vu would need to make a transfer to the LRT downtown and navigate his way from the train to his worksite. He was unsure.
Until he met Vicki Gudelj.
“We did a number of trips together, both to work and home, until he was sure of where to get off the Route 128 downtown, how to make his way to the train platform, ensure he was taking the correct train, and make his way from train level to his work site on campus with confidence,” said Gudelj.
“He is an avid smartphone user and I also introduced him and his mother to the Transit App, which they were glad to know about and use.”
Transit travel training is one in a host of services, including DATS, that help Edmontonians live with a higher degree of independence. The commitment to accessibility and inclusiveness includes low-floor entry and fold-out ramps on all buses and accessible LRT trains and stations. It features audible “next stop” and service-related announcements on buses and LRT. It provides senior-friendly accessible service and features and tools, including mobility cards, bus hailer kits and customer communication cards.
ETS leaders understand accessible transportation is an incomplete victory. There is more to do. DATS has recently hired additional operators, increased the number of contract vehicles on the road, and is working diligently to turn feedback at recent focus groups and workshops into improved customer service.
As well, the City of Edmonton and ETS are working on the Stadium LRT Station Redevelopment, which will feature barrier-free access and added pedestrian track crossings at both ends of the platform.
This is National AccessAbility Week, but removing barriers to transit and promoting an inclusive, accessible transit system is a year-round commitment.
For more information on ETS’ Mobility Choices travel training program, call 780-496-3000 or email ETSCustomerTraining@edmonton.ca.