Planning for transportation is an essential part of the job planning process. Job seekers, families, DDS, employment service providers and employers need to work together right from the beginning to identify transportation options.
Young adults and their families need to determine reliable, safe and economic ways to commute to and from work. Families can turn to their DDS Service Coordinator and employment provider for direction and help. Here is a list of transportation issues to consider:
Are any public transportation routes accessible? If so, are they available on the days and hours the young adult will be travelling to and from work?
Is para-transit available? Para-transit is a service available within 3/4 mile of existing public transportation, more commonly known as The RIDE in the Boston area and Dial-A-Bat in the Brockton area.
Are transportation services available from the employment service provider, the employer or DDS?
Is carpooling or shared-ride transportation an option?
How long will the commute take?
What will the costs be, whether by private or public transportation?
Are there health, behavior or risk issues that should be considered when selecting the means of transportation?
Will the individual be able to use public transportation or other shared transit with proper training and support?
When planning transportation, "thinking outside the box" can result in a creative solution. For example, maybe your town's Elder Services program can be helpful. Or perhaps your town's taxi company might negotiate a special discounted rate. Consider approaching relatives, co-workers and neighbors about carpooling options. Public transportation and vanpools are additional options that can be explored. Employers may also help with shuttle services, identifying carpooling options or other arrangements.
Para-transit systems, a product of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), constitute another travel option. Para-transit service is for people who are elderly or have disabilities that prevent them from riding on fixed route buses and trains. This service provides shared-ride, curb-to-curb van transportation. In Massachusetts, public transportation is coordinated by Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs). Each of the sixteen RTAs in the state maintains a fixed-route system and manages para-transit programs for their region. RTAs must provide para-transit service throughout their regions within 3/4 mile of a fixed route. Many communities, along with their RTAs, have developed local coordinated transportation plans that offer unique programs for residents, addressing local transportation challenges. Contact your local RTA to find out about the transportation services in your town. Information is also available in the resource section at the back of this publication.
The Department of Developmental Services collaborates with the Massachusetts Human Service Transportation Office (HST) to coordinate transportation services to adults enrolled in day habilitation, day service, employment and residential support programs overseen by the DDS. This is a "closed-request system," meaning that the request must come from the DDS Service Coordinator through a formal process called a Transportation Request. The DDS Service Coordinator completes a Transportation Request Form (TRF) and submits it to the HST office. After reviewing the form and checking availability with contracted transportation vendors, the HST offices will let the Service Coordinator know if there is an available seat and funding to accommodate the transportation request.
Additional transportation resources to investigate are:
Identifying and arranging necessary accommodations and supports is a key part of assisting people with disabilities to find and keep employment--and is legally reinforced by the Americans with Disabilities Act. A job accommodation means that a job, workplace or way a job is done is modified to help the person with a disability do his/her job. A job accommodation can also allow a person to enjoy the benefits that other employees at a job site enjoy such as participating in holiday parties at accessible locations. There are several general types of job accommodations:
Job restructuring, such as a change in work schedule or a decrease in the number of job duties
Assistive devices, which include items such as an electronic stapler, non-skid material, and a mechanical reacher
Training/teaching methods, such as an extended orientation period or an audio version of a training manual
Personal assistant to help with work-related aspects of a job, such as a "mentor" to go to with questions or a co-worker to assist with reading
Modification to the building, such as ramps, electronic door opener and flashing lights
"Assistive technology" (AT) is a term you may hear mentioned when planning accommodations for the workplace. Assistive technology is an item, device or piece of equipment that is used to help the person with a disability perform a task. AT can range from relatively simple, low cost and low-tech items available from a hardware store (such as a piece of Velcro to help hold something down), to highly sophisticated and costly technology. Examples of high-tech AT items are specialized computer devices available from special vendors. Your employment service provider will help identify and develop accommodations needed for the individual work situation. DDS, MRC, MCB and/or employers may help to pay for needed accommodations.
No one knows your young adult's needs better than you. You can be a tremendous help to the professional employment team in predicting and planning the resources and supports that your son or daughter will need on the job.
It is an employer's responsibility to treat all employees with equality. This means that employees with intellectual disabilities should receive all of the same benefits as co-workers. If you ever feel that your young adult is not being treated equally, talk to your employment provider or DDS Service Coordinator. People with disabilities have the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and can receive accommodations that help them perform their jobs if their disability has been disclosed.
Young adults who work part-time need, as do all working people, additional activities for a fulfilling weekly schedule. Some young adults, due to the nature or level of their disability, require supervision or need to be engaged in supervised programming in addition to their work schedule. These individuals can develop skills through volunteer work, community events, recreational outings and other daytime activities.
The mix of activities throughout the day will be based on the young adult's level of independence and support needs. It is important for families to focus on how they can increase the individual's independence, both in and outside the home and how to best integrate their son/daughter into the community. Some of the factors to think about are if and how the individual can be home alone and be safe when s/he is not working, when other adult family members are available to provide necessary supervision in the home and what community-based programs are available and of interest to the individual. A weekly schedule should consist of a healthy mix of work, learning, and fun; options can be discussed with your DDS Service Coordinator.