One of the ways Capital Metro ensures that our system is accessible is by providing paratransit—parallel service—for those in our community whose physical or cognitive abilities limit functional use of our fixed route bus system. It works like this: once a person is enrolled in the program (information from the customer and a qualified professional, such as a doctor or caseworker, help us determine eligibility for the program), he can schedule trips on the Internet or by phone. MetroAccess will pick him up and drop him off at his destination. It costs customers $35 per month for unlimited rides with a monthly pass.
MetroAccess drivers collectively make about 2,000 trips each day. Two of those drivers are Ted Ward and Tito Hernandez. They both began working at Capital Metro in 1991. When I met with them last week, neither of them was aware that Monday was the 20th anniversary of the ADA. In a way, they’re celebrating the ADA everyday in the course of their jobs. Ted says, “MetroAccess is a great system because people can get around—go to the theaters, dinners on Friday nights—just like everyone else.” That’s the spirit of the ADA, equal access.
Tito and Ted recounted many stories of customers who left a lasting, positive impression on them about living a positive life and having a grateful heart. Once, a customer and her five-year old daughter were riding in Ted’s van, and when they reached their destination, the daughter kissed his cheek and said, “Thanks for taking care of us.”
Tito wouldn’t change jobs for anything. He said, “I had applied first for fixed route, but I’m glad I was chosen here. It’s great coming to work.”
When they were newly hired, part of the training program was a panel presentation by ARCIL (Austin Resource Center for Independent Living). The panel consisted of people living with different types of disabilities, and they talked to the trainees about how they wanted to be treated, what challenges they faced, etc. It was eyeopening for Ted and Tito.
People who haven’t had much interaction with people with disabilities can be apprehensive at first. Perhaps they are afraid of the unknown, or worried about doing or saying something wrong. Ted remembers, “I had no idea how to work with people with disabilities before working here.” Now, as trainers for new drivers, Tito and Ted help others challenge their initial assumptions and overcome their apprehension.
When asked what one thing they’d like to tell people about MetroAccess, Tito doesn’t hesitate. “We need more people to know about this service. It’s available.” Most people do know someone who could benefit from our free mobility training that helps people ride the bus, or, if they cannot use the bus system, MetroAccess. Learn more about our accessible services or email the MetroAccess program.