Summer is upon us here in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. It has begun to warm up outside and we are all able to enjoy the many beautiful sites in our area.
Providing supports and services to individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and Autism in a rural area is at times very challenging. One of the biggest challenges is transportation, getting people from point A to point B. Over the past year the State of Pennsylvania placed an emphasis on getting individuals in our Day Programs out into the community. They have a series of goals and the minimum is for an individual to be out 25% of their time in program. Complicating this effort is that you may only go out in groups of 3 or less and you may not go to a building or program owned or operated by Martha Lloyd.
The Day Program staff in both counties (Bradford and Tioga) have worked very hard at trying to meet this goal. We have hired more staff and leased or purchased more vehicles. However, in small rural communities, there just are not that many places to go. We serve approximately 120 individuals in these Day Programs, so as we attempt to comply, we often spend time on the road. Since there are no functional public transportation systems in our counties that could assist us in this effort it all falls back on Martha Lloyd. In more urban settings, a public transportation system would certainly be an option. Spending time in a car or a van is really not participating in the community.
We continue to discuss the circumstances that exist in rural areas and the officials from the State appear to be willing to listen and help us with problem solving. Taking our individuals with more disabilities into the community is an even bigger challenge. Many businesses may be handicapped accessible but are not equipped with suitable restrooms, which then limits our options even further. We also do not want to overwhelm public settings like our local library with different individuals every hour they are open. We do not want to wear out our welcome and we want people to establish relationships in these communities.
We do believe that offering our individuals more opportunities to participate in the community is a very worthwhile goal. We just need the decision makers to understand the unique issues that exist in rural areas and to work with us to eliminate as many barriers as possible. Being actively engaged in the community in which you live is a very worthwhile pursuit. We will keep you informed.
Enjoy Your Summer!