Take the Bus; Community First in Action

April 9, 2017

Posted in: Uncategorized

Community Living Parry Sound first adopted a Community First philosophy in 2014 as part of our strategic direction. This approach to supporting people with developmental disabilities to create a good life in their community continues to enrich the lives of people by empowering, emboldening and supporting them to turn to community members and services first, and provide social services as needed.

Transportation has been, and remains, a challenging barrier to living a good life in community that people of all abilities want. What happens when support staff is unable, for a myriad of reasons, to take people who have a developmental disability where they want to go, when they want to go; for shopping, a movie or just a change of scenery?

Over the past few years some incredible work has been done by West Parry Sound District Community Support Services (WPSCSS), The Town of Parry Sound and Community Living Parry Sound (CLPS) to talk through the problem of providing accessible transportation to local residents.  The work these community partners have accomplished has produced a new accessible van (fondly known as ‘Big Blue’), run by WPSCSS, as well as an agreement with Ivy’s Taxi to add an accessible taxi to their business. This has made a real impact on the lives of people who require this service to get them around.  As Rebecca Jones, 36, says, “life doesn’t stop at 4:00 pm” (the time at which the WPSCSS van and the CLPS van become unavailable to use). Now Rebecca can call on Ivy’s Taxi when she wants to go out with a friend in the evening; something she has recently experienced for the first time.

In my role of Communications Coordinator, I love when I open my email and see a story like this one sent to me by Rebecca Green, CLPS Community Inclusion & Support Facilitator.  It reads:

“Hi Tricia, I thought you might like to hear that recently Carl and Glen decided that they wanted to go down to Barrie for a shopping trip but we (the staff), couldn’t take them so they decided to go on their own. I sat with Carl and helped him come up with a plan. We looked at a list of the buses they would need to take, wrote out the phone numbers they would need to have with them and then they headed down to Barrie, did some shopping and made it back with no problem at all! They are planning on going again on their own this spring!”

This is a story about two middle-aged men who have never taken public transportation on their own before, let alone travel over 100 kms to another city using multiple methods of public transit. By successfully taking public transportation, Carl and Glen were able to experience the day they planned together and now know that they are capable of doing this again. They did not have support staff along as part of their day, the trip cost them less than it would have to use a vehicle provided by a social service agency and the bus was more available, with less planning and coordinating needed than using social service resources.

In this story, Carl, Glen, Rebecca, CLPS, the Town of Barrie, the public transit system and the people who care about the future of Carl and Glen all benefit, each in a unique way, from the Community First approach taken; using public transportation and relying on the ability of Carl and Glen to manage their own day. The story reveals a remarkable transformation in the way developmental services are being provided to people today, the capacity of the community to provide for all of its citizens and the ability of people with developmental disabilities to manage their own lives.

 Tricia Bain

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