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Other Employment Considerations (continued)


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:

  • American Public Transportation Association has a website containing all available public transportation resources by state and county. The site includes links to bus, train, ferry and para-transit information, and can be reached at www.publictransportation.org/systems.
  • MassRides is a comprehensive transportation resource for people travelling in and around the Commonwealth. MassRides maintains a database of thousands of commuters and connects those who share similar commutes and are interested in carpooling or vanpooling to work. Visit www.commute.com for more information.

Success Story: Learning to Use the Van Independently and Safely

Nicole's mother shares their experiences with transportation issues. "Nicole cannot drive so learning to take para-transit transportation was vital. She was very apprehensive about doing this and we worried that if she couldn't adjust to taking the van, it would inhibit her ability to work. With the help of our employment service provider and many close friends and family, she was taught how to deal with this new challenge. Again, one step at a time. She has risen to the challenge and takes the vans to all of her jobs, handles her own tickets and has learned to deal with some of the difficulties and imperfections of the public transportation system." Nicole shares her own feelings. "My biggest challenge was learning to take para-transit transportation. I had to learn how to figure out the tickets I needed. I also had to learn to deal with different drivers and the many, many mistakes that the van makes. I had to learn how to call the office and find out when and where my van was."

Similarly, when Lindsay was still in school, her teachers developed a program so she would become proficient in taking a taxi or para-transit to work. Learning to safely and comfortably ride taxis was written into her IEP in her last two years of school. She started the training by taking her rides with an aide. Then her mother made use of Lindsay's cell phone as an assistive device; the phone alarm went off to indicate when to go outside to get to her ride. Lindsay learned to always ask the driver, "Are you the taxi for Lindsay?" to ensure she was getting into the right vehicle.

Accommodations on the Job

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.

How Do I Plan My Young Adult's Week When S/he is Working Part-Time?

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.

Success Story: Planning a Life: Start by Planning a Week

Lindsay's week is a combination of part-time paid work and volunteer work experiences. Her mother, Robin, recommends that families think about all aspects and components of the week, including when parents need to be at work, transportation arrangements, and social/recreational activities. Robin suggests planning the whole week, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, to make sure everything is in place. She and her husband helped fill Lindsay's weekly schedule by hiring a college student one day a week who engages Lindsay in activities at the student's college while Robin and her husband are at work.

Worksite Accommodations

A wide range of items and devices are readily available to minimize limitations and barriers at work, and enable employees with disabilities to do their jobs efficiently and productively. Most are simple to put into place, do not cost a lot of money and can be found at your local hardware or office supply store. Resourcefulness and creativity can lead to solutions for many of the challenges that may arise at a job. The following examples represent no-tech to high-tech accommodations.

No-Tech

  • Color-coded stickers to organize files
  • Photo/picture sequencing book to order duties or task steps
  • Cardboard jig to guide folding of T-shirts
  • Sunglasses to minimize stimulation & sensitivity to light

Low-Tech

  • Alarm watch or timer to help pace tasks
  • Talking calculator with large keys
  • Spell check on computers
  • Vibrating beeper that provides prompts without drawing attention
  • Hands-free speaker telephone
  • Music with earphones to minimize distractions

High-Tech

  • Screen reading computer software (computer reads aloud printed words)
  • Speech recognition computer software (computer types spoken words)
  • Alternative keyboards (makes typing easier for people with hand strength and fine motor control issues)
  • Voice output communication devices (allows nonverbal people to communicate using words)
  • Personal data assistants (PDAs can provide visual schedules and directions)
  • TTY or text telephone for those who can't hear

A Cell Phone as an Assistive Technology Device

Cell phones, with all their many functions, have become a way of life for today's young adults. Families, schools and job coaches can make the most of cell phones and young adults' comfort level in using them in different ways. For example, some have used the alarm system that is built into a cell phone to ring out reminders about when an employee needs to perform various tasks on the job, helping her/him to stay on schedule. A cell phone is a great example of how a "typical device" can be used as a simple assistive tool and make an important difference in an individual's independence and success on the job.

Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

This federally-funded program provides information and consultation on job accommodations. JAN consultants are available by phone to assist in identifying potential accommodations; they have instant access to the most comprehensive and up-to-date information about different approaches, devices, and strategies. JAN's website has a searchable online database (SOAR) which can also be used to research accommodation options.

Accommodation Information (Voice/TTY): 800-526-7234

ADA Information (Voice/TTY):
800-232-9675

Fax: 304-293-5407

Email: jan@.icdi.wvu.edu

Website: http://jan.wvu.edu