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Easter Seals Project ACTION Hosts Roundtable on Transportation for Students with Disabilities

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 General News J E 4
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SAVANNAH, Ga., Oct. 27 The transportation needs of the nation's youth with disabilities will be the focus of an Oct. 28 roundtable discussion event in Savannah, Ga., hosted by Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA) - a training and technical assistance center funded through a cooperative agreement with the Federal Transit Administration.

ESPA, based in Washington, D.C., will bring together youth with disabilities, parents and other family members, and representatives from the disability, transportation and youth communities. They will examine the state of transportation for youth, particularly young adults who are in transition from high school to advanced education or employment. James E. Williams, Jr., president and chief executive officer of Easter Seals, noted: "For years, education and employment have been viewed as integral to successful transition toward independent living in adulthood. Transportation is literally the link to schools, the work place, and every other destination in community life."

This event's goal is to identify solutions and develop a set of actions to address the needs of and issues and barriers related to transportation access for youth with disabilities. As part of the process to understand youth with disabilities' perspectives on transportation access, an experiential learning collaboration was arranged through WVSA Arts Connection--Washington DC affiliate of VSA Arts--and sponsored by ESPA. Young artists with disabilities were invited to express what public transportation means in their lives. The creative results were compiled into a series of artwork: a quilt, a three-dimensional painting, and a digital photo collage. Easter Seals Intergenerational Center in Silver Spring, Maryland participated in part of the process, with older adults from the center taking pictures representing their views on transportation access. To highlight the series, Easter Seals Project ACTION and WVSA Arts will host an exhibit, "A View from Within--What Transportation Means to Me."

For guidance and continuing involvement in the youth transportation initiative, ESPA convened an advisory committee comprised of leaders in the fields of education, disability services, and transportation, including Lacy Pittman, The National Council on Independent Living and National Youth Leadership Network Governing Board member, and Judy Shanley, education program specialist, U.S. Department of Education. Julia Kim, ESPA's coordinator of this project, and Pittman worked together in fielding a pre-survey and ensuring that students' with disabilities voices would be front and center at the event. "We are delighted to have such a distinguished team behind this vital initiative to tackle the issues of accessible transportation for youth with disabilities," said Randall Rutta, executive vice president, Easter Seals Office of Public Affairs.

Mary Leary, senior director of Easter Seals Project ACTION, also expressed the team's appreciation for the collaboration with the Center for Exceptional Children's Division on Career Development and Transition, which resulted in this event being held at DCDT's 15th International Conference. This venue provides an opportunity to garner additional participation of key stakeholders from the career transition community. "The DCDT team has provided invaluable assistance in this first opportunity to collaborate, and we look forward to developing joint initiatives based on what we learn during the roundtable," Leary said.

Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. For 90 years, Easter Seals has been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play. Further information is available at www.easterseals.com.

Easter Seals Project ACTION--the acronym stands for Accessible Community Transportation In Our Nation--is funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration. Established in 1988, ESPA promotes universal access to transportation for people with disabilities under federal law and beyond by partnering with transportation providers, the disability community and others through the provision of training, technical assistance, applied research, outreach and communication. Further information is available at www.projectaction.org.

SOURCE Easter Seals
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