by Barbara Salisbury
(Editor’s Note: Barbara Salisbury is the president of ACB of Indiana. She resides in Bloomington, Ind.)
The transportation and mobility committee is an advisory committee of the Community Council for Accessibility, the city of Bloomington’s advisory body on issues of accessibility and disability. As chair, I’m privileged to work with representatives from various organizations including Stone Belt Arc, Bloomington Public Transit Corp., Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University and member of USEDD, city liaison for committee support and project facilitation, ACB members and other community advocates.
We actively offer advisement on bicycle and scooter ordinances, pedestrian development, and most recently assisted Bloomington Transit in developing a more comprehensive tool for conducting bus stop assessments. We worked collaboratively with the transit company in visiting some of these bus stops to demonstrate what is truly critical for accessibility, and how the assessment tool might be enhanced to allow for these accessibility issues.
Additionally, we just organized and held a two-part event to explore how ridesharing is being used in other communities to expand and enhance transportation for people with disabilities, and a workshop to train people with disabilities in how to utilize rideshare options. As a college town, ridesharing opportunities are all around us, but the committee recognizes that the disability community as a whole is not utilizing these services to their full potential.
Partnering with the National Center for Mobility Management (NCMM), and with the support of the city’s liaison with our committee, and with funding through a grant from ADA Indiana, we planned and presented this event which took place in May of this year at the Bloomington convention center.
We held a luncheon, by invitation only, for community policy makers, transportation planners and providers, and key community advocates. There were about 45 in all that attended the luncheon. Our presenter was Judy Shanley with NCMM. Judy outlined how ridesharing is being used in other communities to expand the traditional options of transportation, particularly paratransit, and we started a dialogue as to what these creative options might look like for Bloomington and the surrounding area.
The second part of our event, immediately following our luncheon, was a training workshop for people with disabilities in how to use rideshare services. We formed a panel comprised of an Uber/Lyft driver, and regular rideshare customers from our local ACB chapter, Heartland Association of ACB. Judy Shanley also presented briefly at this workshop. We brought in via Zoom Malcom Glenn with Uber to answer questions specific to his company and the ridesharing industry. The workshop was attended by approximately 40 people representing the cross-disability community. There were 9 people from the Heartland ACB chapter who participated, some as experienced users and others wanting to learn more.
In follow-up to the workshop, we are piloting a first-time rideshare customer buddy ride. We will conduct a short training session for those that will provide hands-on assistance and be that first-time customer’s ride buddy. These companions will assist in making that first Uber or Lyft contact, and accompany that first-time customer on their maiden voyage! We are providing rideshare gift cards to the new customer of $50 each, and are compensating the ride buddies with a stipend. Included in this pilot will be 15 new customers from a cross section of disability in our community, and will include seniors who can no longer drive.
Finally, we will conduct evaluations to measure the success of our pilot, and track the ride participants over a 3- to 4-month period to see if they continue to use ridesharing options for their personal transportation; and if not, for what reasons did they discontinue using these services. We will use the information gathered from the evaluations and follow-up interviews as we continue our conversation with our policy makers, transportation planners and providers, and others as to how rideshare services might be used to expand or enhance the transportation options in our community.