Coalition tries to spread word about public transit

Old Lyme - Informational workshops, student surveys and educational resources about public transit are among a local coalition's initiatives to promote access to transportation in the region.

The Accessible Transportation Coalitions Initiative is aiming to raise awareness about transit options for residents and students, including those with special needs, who are beginning a transition to college, jobs or living independently.

The team of transit, human services, and education representatives formed last year, after LEARN, a regional education agency, received a grant to improve transportation for students with special needs. The grant was from Easter Seals, a national nonprofit offering services for children and adults with disabilities.

As a result of the group's efforts, several workshops will be held in the region this fall to cover available transit options, said Jonathan Rubell, mobility services director for The Kennedy Center of Trumbull. The center, which provides services to those with disabilities, is a coalition member which has a federal grant to perform such workshops.

The first presentation, slated for 10 a.m. Oct. 31 at LEARN headquarters on Hatchetts Hill Road, will inform attendees on transit vouchers, public bus and train services and travel options for commuters.

The workshop is not only for human service professionals working with individuals with disabilities, but also anyone seeking to learn about accessing the region's transit services, said Rubell.

He said the coalition has found that residents are often unaware of the transit services available.

Another informational workshop, scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 7 at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, will also serve to inform people about the new SEAT express route to Three Rivers, said Rubell. A sample bus ride will follow both events.

Among other events, a Nov. 14 workshop at LEARN will teach school board members in the region about resources for teaching students about transportation. The coalition is developing resources and curriculum for educators, said Lois Eldridge, LEARN's special education transition coordinator.

Meanwhile, the state Bureau of Special Education, has recognized the ability to use public or private transportation as a "core transition skill" for students with disabilities, she added.

Eldridge said the transportation information can help all students, not just those with special needs, as well as people who may not be able to drive because of disability or other reasons.

Connecting transit providers with the community working with special-needs students in transition has been critical.

"It's been a great experience seeing those two worlds come together" and collaborate to provide information and transit opportunities, said Rubell.

The coalition, which has met four times, has goals for the future, according to Eldridge.

"Everyone is agreeing to keep it moving forward," she said.

Registration for the public workshops is available by contacting Pat Manzi of the Kennedy Center at or (203) 365-8522 ext. 273.


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