|A CALL TO ACTION
by Patricia J. Voorhees, M.Ed.
In seeking literature that would support the need for certification, or at the very least an agreement on specific skills and competencies necessary for a profession, I was astounded at those fields that do require standards. From Life Coaches, to Hair Stylists, to Image Consultants, to Welders, each profession is ensuring the public and their employers that they have demonstrated not only a commitment to their profession, but in addition that specific skills have been met and documented by an independent agency and certification bureau.
It is time for Travel Instructors to push, in fact insist, for the development of a standardized body of knowledge with subsequent coursework that addresses the essential competencies. Certainly those entering the profession are coming in with the best of intentions, that is to provide a level of independence to persons with disabilities (other than those who are blind or visually impaired) via the teaching of independent travel skills. Yet without the adoption of standardized coursework, employers must struggle with how to provide instruction to persons they hire – and in some cases assign – to be travel instructors. Educational levels vary, backgrounds vary, and assessments of the knowledge and capabilities of those hired to be travel trainers/instructors, also vary. There is no standard way to determine if a travel trainer/instructor is competent to teach independent travel skills.
What also varies are the training standards for teaching independent travel skills to persons with disabilities. Anecdotal information shared by agencies and travel trainers shows that instruction is provided from a minimal of a few days to as long as several weeks or months. Skills taught vary from learning how to board and ride a transit vehicle, to intensive instruction which involves a multitude of factors included sensory processing, critical thinking skills, and functional academics. The term “travel training” is used loosely and reference to this phrase can be used to include group training, an overview of the mass transit system, or even just a walk through a training center. Perhaps there is a reason why confusion exists, as it appears that travel instruction ‘professionals’ cannot even come to terms with the definition let alone the credentials for travel instructors.
CEATI was established to help answer these questions. Our association was intended to begin to address the need for additional instruction and professional development. CEATI also has endorsed the graduate certificate program at Widener University that will offer post baccalaureate coursework for aspiring travel instructors.
Travel trainers/instructors should welcome the development of a standardized program of study. It raises the field to a respected profession, and with that comes the potential for increased salary and advancement. Some travel trainers worry that the increased requirements may be a deterrent to their future employment. Yet obtaining this knowledge would only help to increase future opportunities as more employers have begun to advertise for “experienced travel trainers/instructors”. And employers are seeking knowledgeable instructors as they recognize that in so doing, there is a reduction in the need for on the job training as well as insurance and liability costs. Hence, it is a win-win for everyone.
2012 SUMMER AND FALL CLASSES FOR WIDENER'S GRADUATE CERTIFICATE PROGRAM
Registration for the 2012 summer and fall classes for Widener’s Graduate Certificate program in Travel Instruction is now open.
Please contact Patti Voorhees, Director of Travel Instruction, for further information at firstname.lastname@example.org
REGIONAL TRANSIT COMMISSION (RTC) OF SO. NEVADA PLANS NEW MOBILITY TRAINING/PARATRANSIT EVALUATION CENTER
by Jim Shampoe
To address rising Regional Transit Commission’s ADA Paratransit costs and to accommodate growing requests for Mobility Instruction within the Las Vegas Valley, The RTC of Southern Nevada is excited to announce it has planned a four million dollar Mobility Instruction/ADA Paratransit Certification Center slated to open in 2014. The new facility will be built using Federal Grant Money as well as RTC funds.
The new Mobility/Paratransit Center will be one of only five in the country. What sets the RTC’s Center apart is that it is being built specifically for the RTC’s Mobility Instruction Program.
The new Mobility/Paratransit Center will feature an evaluation course consisting of terrain like one would encounter outside in the real world. It will house a functioning 40ft RTC Coach that will simulate the motions riders encounter while on an actual vehicle on route. The center will also include bus shelters, automated ticket vending machines, sidewalks, curb cuts, and mock street crossings with fully functioning signals. In addition, large classroom space where groups can come for training sessions to learn the RTC Fixed Route Bus System will be provided. The Clark County School District is already planning to use the facility for community based instruction (CBI) trainings for their students with disabilities.
The other component of the center will be the ADA Paratransit Evaluation Center. Paratransit applicants will be able to come to the center to be evaluated in a controlled environment. This eliminates the need to cancel evaluations due to extreme climatic conditions that experienced in the Las Vegas Valley, which is problematic for applicants and delays eligibility determinations.
The RTC Mobility/Paratransit Center will help to address the growing paratransit demand and costs that the RTC is facing. Currently, it costs the RTC $37.00 per one way trip to transport a customer on paratransit service compared to $2.26 on the fixed route service.
This new Mobility/Paratransit Center will truly be a one stop shop to address the transportation needs of people with disabilities in Las Vegas.
O&M AND TRAVEL INSTRUCTION - WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
by Bonnie Dodson-Burk, COMS, TVI
Students and Adults with Nonvisual Disabilities Should Have Access to Travel Instruction
When I first started teaching orientation and mobility (O&M) in the public school system in the early 1980s, I worked with a student in a life skills classroom who was legally blind and had cognitive challenges. Almost every week his teacher asked me why the other students in the class, all of whom had cognitive challenges, didn’t receive individualized instruction in traveling in the community. They needed it too. I agreed and felt badly that I had no solution. At that time, community based instruction, even in a group, was not provided.
Progress is being made. Travel instruction (TI) has been included in IDEA since 2004. Several comprehensive TI programs in public schools have demonstrated success. (Blasch, Wiener, Voorhees, Minick & Furlong, 2010). Despite this, many school age students with potential to travel independently in the community and to use public transit do not receive individualized travel instruction. Some transit agencies offer limited training to adults with mobility limitations. Lack of community travel skills often limits an individual’s opportunity for employment and social activities.
We Have a Lot in Common
The fields of O&M and travel instruction have a more similarities than differences.
The list of competencies for instructors in both fields is remarkably similar (Blasch, Wiener, Voorhees, et al, 2010). Refer to the CEATI website for a list of competencies for travel instructors. Students with intellectual and/or physical disabilities have the same right to a highly qualified instructor as do those who are blind or visually impaired.
We Can Learn From Each Other
Many O&M specialists, myself included, teach students with multiple disabilities and low vision. These students have an array of intellectual, emotional, or physical challenges. Some O&M specialists provide travel instruction to sighted individuals with other mobility limitations. Many years ago I provided travel instruction for a paratransit agency in western PA. Although I did have some coursework focusing on individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities as part of my bachelor’s degree in special education and in my O&M graduate program, I felt unprepared to teach many aspects of street crossings and bus travel. Let me give two examples. When working with persons who use a wheelchair, I had to learn how to use securements and procedures for evacuating a bus in the event of an emergency. Several of the adults I taught with Down syndrome had a tendency to fall asleep on the bus. In talking to travel instructors, I learned that they had similar experiences with this population. I educated myself by observing TI lessons, attending TI conferences, consulting with travel instructors, and reviewing the limited body of literature in TI. I still have a lot to learn.
The field of travel instruction is currently developing a university training program (see article about Widener University), a body of literature, and documented strategies for best practice. Having already worked through these processes, the O&M field should assist travel instructors, enabling them to learn from our experiences. In summary, there is a lot to be gained by collaboration between travel instructors and O&M specialists. Let’s work together for the common goal of providing high quality mobility and travel instruction for individuals with all types of disabilities.
Blasch, B.B., Wiener, R.W., Voorhees, P.J., Minick, B., and Furlong, J. (2010) Travel instruction for individuals with nonvisual disabilities. In Foundations of Orientation and Mobility, 3rd Edition, Vol. 2, Chapter 21. NY: American Foundation for the Blind.
Competencies for the Effective Practice of the Travel Instructor. Downloaded on 2/12/2012 from http://www.ceati-travelinstruction.org/
EMERGENCY EVACUATION OF MASS TRANSIT VEHICLES
by Jay Furlong, M.Ed.
It is the responsibility of the Travel Instructor, Orientation & Mobility Specialist or Classroom Teacher to safe guard their student. A previously developed response plan will help provide the best protection for potential emergencies. This article will provide you with some basic information to guide you to handle critical situations when using public transit vehicles.
In addition, it is recommended that you consult with your transit agency regarding their emergency preparedness plans. All transit agencies have developed plans based upon the mode of transit. Transit agencies which provide rail service must hold a mock evacuation drill at least once a year. You should request the opportunity to attend as an observer.
While on a bus or train, when the opportunity presents itself, evaluate the vehicle as well as the terrain at a given time. Ask yourself, “If something were to happen how could I safely remove the student and myself?”
The area where you see smoke or fire.
The safest and most expeditious exit.
The location of the fire extinguisher:
NOTE: The extinguisher should be used to protect the egress from the vehicle. Pull the pin, aim at the base of the flames and use a short burst in a sweeping motion as the person exits.
The terrain in the immediate area.
Be familiar with the location of the doors.
How do they operate? (air pressure, electric, manual)
How do they operate in an emergency?
Where are the window escapes and how do they operate?
Where are the roof hatches and how do they operate?
Identify the location of the fire/smoke.
What would be the best exit?
Will the fire extinguisher be necessary to protect the egress?
What is the terrain outside of the vehicle?
Students Using a Wheelchair
Be familiar with the components of the chair and DO NOT attempt to move the student in the chair.
Remove the lap belt and shoulder harness as well as the seat belt of the chair.
Use a “Fireman’s Hug” to lift the person out of the chair and onto the floor.
A “Fireman’s Hug” is when you get behind the person and place your arms underneath their arms and around to the upper chest. With your hands clasped together move the person in one motion up and over the arm rest and onto the floor.
Use a “Fireman’s Carry” to remove them from the vehicle.
A “Fireman’s Carry” is with the person on their back and you drag them from under their arms or by the collar to the exit.
DO NOT attempt to use the lift because it will waste valuable time and it may not work if the engine has been shut down or the electrical system has failed.
Subways and Elevated Trains
These scenarios are too varied to enumerate. Consult the transit agency and ask to participate as an observer in a mock evacuation drill. However:
Trains of this nature are typically powered by 600 volts of electricity. As soon as an emergency is reported the first response will be to shut the power off. If you are underground the area will be plunged into near darkness; except for the low voltage emergency lights.
Evacuation underground typically takes place out the train-line door. This is the door at the front or the back of the train with a drop off into the track area.
If the train is on an elevated structure there may be a catwalk to the right side of the direction of travel.
If you are working with a student on a subway it will be helpful to carry a small flashlight with fresh batteries.
Recommendations for further information
Your local transit agency
Community Transportation Association of America
Mr. Len Cahill 202-415-9653
Gladwell, Malcolm, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”. 2005 Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY
Gawande, Atul, “Complications: A Surgeons Notes on an Imperfect Science” 2002 Picador, New York, NY
YOU CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE... OR CAN YOU? How to Develop Individual Trip Plans in the Midst of Public Transit Service Cuts
by Michelle Holsopple
Reductions in Service; Limited Service; Route Eliminations. Phrases like these have become familiar. With public transportation cuts, it stands to reason that those who depend on its use will find themselves without transportation options – right? Not necessarily.
As travel instructors, we have always known that the development of a trip plan presents us with a ‘puzzle’ of sorts, an unique opportunity to sort through the maze of bus routes and schedules, available amenities (restrooms, phones), and pedestrian considerations. This process of evaluating the options and determining that which is safest and most feasible is what we refer to as environmental analysis. This process will help us navigate this new territory of seemingly limited transit options.
While at first glance it may seem impossible task, the good news is our environmental analysis skills (transit detective work) if you will, can work in our favor in this situation, when we just “shift” our thought process slightly. The term mobility management means moving people, rather than moving transit vehicles. While in a traditional environmental analysis we may have looked at how the transit vehicles move within the geographic region and tried to fit people into that pattern of movement, in a mobility management model, we look at how people move from one point to the other, and then try to locate and fit transit options into their pattern of travel to complete the puzzle. By doing this, we are no longer limited by the operations of one type of transit ---fixed route transit. Instead we open ourselves up to learn about other options ---community van services, work van services, and para-transit feeder services, available in the area and think about how they can work together to move people into their communities, and how we as travel instructors can help people learn to access and use the options available to connect them to their communities.
For example, where in the past, someone may have gotten on a fixed route bus from their house and off at work, or at the most transferred to a second bus for their trip, they now may get a para-transit feeder to the bus stop closest to their home, and then use the fixed route for the remainder of the trip to work.
Here are a few starting points for mobility management:
KEEP AN OPEN MIND Look at the entire trip, and how the person will move from place to place. Disregard the fact that you don’t at first see a fixed route available in the neighborhood. Keep an open mind, and talk to key people in the transit industry, and you will be surprised at other options which may appear that you had not known about before or never would have considered.
GET CONNECTED AND LEARN ABOUT ALL POTENTIAL OPTIONS If you haven’t already, develop contacts with your public transit agency and learn all you can about the available routes. Having inside contacts in administration can help you to get first-hand knowledge of proposed service cuts and route eliminations. It can also help you to have a voice to provide feedback on the potential impact to your clients of proposed service cuts, or benefits of proposed new services. Once you have established a relationship with your public transit agency, don’t stop there. Learn all you can about other public transit providers in your area. Are there transit companies in adjacent areas that overlap service and can be used instead? Or is para-transit feeder service an option? Mobility management is all about working together. The more you can get connected with the various transit agencies in your area, and the overall transit planning organization or group, the more effective you will be at this process.
EXPLORE AND LEARN HOW TO USE PROPOSED OPTIONS, THE SAME AS YOU WOULD A FIXED ROUTE BUS. The best way to learn about new transit providers (i.e. community van services, etc) is to ride the vehicles. Generally, many of the same concepts and rules of use apply regardless of the service providers. There are still seatbelts to be used, fares to be paid. However, there may be some variations that you should be aware of before you attempt to teach your clients about their use. I recently rode a community van and passed up the fare box. When I asked the driver, he seemed surprised that I hadn’t seen it. However, I had failed to realize that the coffee can duct taped to the dash WAS the fare box!
AS ALWAYS, KEEP SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS IN MIND. Some transit options are just not safe to recommend, no matter how convenient they may seem to be. I work with many families who rely on “jitney” service to travel from their neighborhood. However, due to the unregulated nature of that service, and the drivers, it is not one I can recommend for my students. Instead, I help the family to identify other public transit alternatives, such as a para-transit feeder service offered through our local public transit agency, or a regulated work van provided through the local health center, that offer safe, available alternatives. Never compromise safety for convenience.
AS ALWAYS, TEACH PROBLEM-SOLVING. In an environment of transit cuts and route changes you never know when the next change coming will impact a person’s trip. The ability to solve problems and to handle transit contingencies is more important than ever in such a dynamic area as transportation is right now.
EVALUATE, EVALUATE, EVALUATE! Travel instruction is a constant process of evaluation of instruction and making adjustments. This is even more true when you are now working with new pathways and transit providers. Evaluate the connections and the overall trip, and make adjustments as necessary to the trip plan. It may not work smoothly the first few times, and may require conversations between you and the transit provider.
The more you know the more effectively you can help your students or clients to identify their options for community mobility and learn to link these options together and use them to move to and from the places they choose---work, school, recreational activities, etc. Good luck! Have fun with the process!
UPCOMING CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS:
April 18-20, 2012
Penn-Del AER Conference, Grantville, PA
Travel Instruction: Understanding the Profession and Working Together
Bonnie Dodson-Burk, Jay Furlong, and Patti Voorhees.
June 27-29, 2012
Central Mid-Atlantic Orientation and Mobility (COMA) Conference, Lancaster, PA.
Instructional Strategies for Teaching Complex Signalized Intersections
Traffic Engineering 101 for O&M Specialists
Working with Sighted Individuals with Multiple Disabilities: Strategies from Travel Instructors
Patti Voorhees, Jay Furlong, Bonnie Dodson-Burk
July 18-22, 2012
AER International Conference, Seattle, WA.
Travel Instruction for Individuals with Nonvisual Disabilities: Understanding the Profession and Working Together
Patti Voorhees, Bruce Blasch, Bonnie Dodson-Burk
July 25-27, 2012
Pennsylvania Community on Transition Conference, Penn State University, Main Campus, Penn Stater Conference Center.
Essential Skills of Travel Instructors
Patti Voorhees, Jay Furlong