When a class of deaf and hard of hearing students boarded a public bus recently, they got a surprise. Bridget, a disability self-advocate, who was there to train them spoke her lines in sign language!
The students were taking part in the Hop on the Bus to Independence Workshop, where they were learning the skills that they need in order to take fixed route public transportation. The program is part of a partnership between JJsList.com and Pace Suburban Bus, and gives people with disabilities new knowledge and skills to gain independence and greater freedom to take public transit instead of ADA Paratransit in order to get around their communities.
Bridget was the self-advocate instructor that day, and her job was to share some tips with the class that she uses when she takes the fixed route bus. She talked about transportation for people with disabilities and transportation safety and she used her skills in sign language to communicate. “Here are a few things that I know about waiting for the bus,” signed Bridget. “I learn my bus route number BEFORE I get to the bus stop. I wait near the bus stop sign so that the driver can see me, and I look for the bus number on the top of the bus.”
Both students and staff were very impressed with Bridget. “What resonated most with me was seeing the big smiles on everyone’s faces when Bridget opened by signing hello and giving her name,” said Ed Madden, Pace Coordinator of Public Outreach. “At that moment, there was an electric connection between her and the students. She literally had the audience in her hands (pun intended) and that program is definitely the most memorable one for me to date.”
The Pace Suburban Bus and JJsList.com team take the workshop experience to schools and disability service providers throughout the Chicagoland area. On this day, 32 students and 8 staff members who were part of a transition program for young adults who are deaf or hard of hearing were engaged and ready to learn.
“Bridget did an awesome job at the presentation,” said Sarah Blair, Mobility Outreach Coordinator for the Regional Transportation Authority. “She impresses me with her confidence, public speaking skills and her accomplishments. When she started signing to the students and staff that just blew me away. Bridget is a woman of many skills!”