Includes contributions by Fred Roberge, Easter Seals NH, ME, and VT, Deborah Ritcey, President & CEO, Granite State Independent Living Center, Clyde Terry, retired President & CEO of Granite State Independent Living Center.
The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), the organization that supports over 340 local Centers for Independent Living (CILs) has the vision: A world in which people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully. This vision is similar to the objectives of inclusive mobility management networks that seek to meaningfully engage the participation of a variety of important stakeholders. Local CILs can be a critical partner to building and sustaining high quality and efficient coordination and mobility management systems for a number of reasons. These reasons are at the heart of the collaboration between Easterseals New Hampshire, who chairs the State Coordination Council on Community Transportation, Granite State Independent Living (GSIL) and the NH Governors Commission on Disability in New Hampshire. As New Hampshire builds a mobility management network, the CIL and the Governor’s Commission on Disability have been important contributors to the content and process of developing a network.
Fred Roberge, Vice President of Transportation, Easter Seals NH, ME and VT, and chairperson for statewide coordination work, described the importance of collaboration between all organizations for development of an inclusive transportation system; “Clyde Terry, former President & CEO of GSIL stated it best, developing inclusive community transportation services in NH requires participation by all stakeholders. We must build a coalition to change the paradigm of underserving people with disabilities. For this reason, it is critical for all stakeholders to have input and a voice while developing more inclusive and responsive transportation services in New Hampshire. It is important that non-profits, human service organizations, businesses and government work together to seek feedback directly from all groups they are working with in order to consider how to best serve their target populations before implementing new transportation systems.” CILs, are non-residential organizations that build the self-advocacy skills of individuals with disabilities by providing information, encouraging role modeling, and assisting individuals and the community to understand civil rights. Top advocacy topics for CILs can include accessible housing, personal assistance, and transportation. Deborah Ritcey who is the new President & CEO of GSIL indicated; “all too often we hear stories around those living with a disability becoming shut-ins, unable to leave their home due to the inability to get transportation which actually meets their needs. For example, securing a wheelchair van for someone in a wheelchair and not a car with a large trunk to put the chair in. This is not only disruptive, potentially harmful, but also infringes on one’s humility. GSIL is lucky to be part of a collocation of organizations dedicated to improving the lives of those living with a disability. Having said that, we need to continue to develop means to improve transportation for NH residents. The state of NH has come a long way, but still has a grand task to complete. This will only be successful when we can say, all NH residents living with a disability has affordable and accessible transportation for not only urgent needs, but the needs to remain active in their community. GSIL remains dedicated to continuing the relationship with other stakeholders to ensure this need is met. “
CILs are a trusted community resource and can offer advice regarding the specific transportation needs of varying disability groups, provide suggestions regarding transportation service, accessibility, and the ADA, and assist to engage greater numbers of individuals with disabilities and organizations in mobility management and coordination. When asked to provide suggestions to the local transit provider regarding a paratransit issue, Clyde Terry, reflected, organizations should always focus on promoting maximum ability by the individual and develop resources to promote education and assistance to individuals for ongoing independence.
To identify your State Independent Living Center (SILC) and local CIL use the locator at the NCIL website site.
Photo Credit: Judy Shanley