Transportation allows individuals with disabilities to achieve and sustain employment, and as employment opportunities expand for people with disabilities to work in integrated settings, transportation services to these jobs become even more important. While Medicaid waiver programs often cover transportation costs, some communities struggle to provide reliable transportation options afterhours or to employment outside of their service areas. Below is Kyle’s story, showcasing how transportation and job access have become an integral part of his daily support system and essential for him to be an active member of the community.
This is Kyle. He was born prematurely and needed a lot of medical assistance to get through the first few years of life, which ultimately affected his speech. But, if you ask his friends and family, they will tell you he doesn’t have any trouble speaking up! From an early age Kyle was excited to attend school; elementary school was much easier, however, once into high school, he was learning alongside other students with disabilities and segregated from everyone else! This shifted his excitement to graduation and joining the community by getting a job, and learning the skills needed to live independently.
After graduation, Kyle started working at a sheltered workshop where he finally felt like he had a sense of purpose and earning his own money. Each day, Kyle would ride the bus to work, using the fixed route system or an on-demand service, where he met a lot of new friends and learned how to navigate the community. Taking the bus provided stability for his family so they did not have to rely on friends or family to transport him each day. The Medicaid waiver program supported Kyle in receiving job and skills training with a job coach, and the ability to ride transportation at a free or reduced cost. Because of this assistance, Kyle was able to live independently and have access to reliable transportation, while learning skills that could be integrated into many different work environments. Kyle really enjoyed working at this workshop, but just like high school, he felt segregated from the community. Thanks to a good friend who managed a local pizza shop, Kyle got a job working 5-days a week, earning a higher wage, interacting with customers and feeling like he was actually part of the community!
In 2013, Kyle’s dad Bill, became a member of the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, which allowed them to connect with other advocates and leaders in the field, including contacts at Vocational Rehabilitation, and learned about the common struggles of accessing employment, including transportation. This connection eventually led to them joining the Iowa Coalition for Integrated Employment and receiving an invitation to speak with elected officials about the importance of hiring people with disabilities.
While Kyle has achieved many of his goals and gained access to the services needed, this is not the case for everyone with a disability, especially for those living in rural areas with limited or no services. A supportive family and access to transportation services have contributed to Kyle’s success, which is why it is incredibly vital for families and end-users to get involved with local planning efforts or advisory groups to advocate for reliable and sustainable services in their communities.
This blog post was written by Jeremy Johnson-Miller, Communications Manager at NADTC, with special contribution and photos provided by Bill Stumpf, Kyle’s dad.