By Bridget Brown, Self-Advocate
My name is Bridget and I am a self-advocate who works on behalf of Pace Suburban Bus.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and it is a perfect time to talk about how taking the bus and transportation is the key to success.
When I went to the College of DuPage, I took the Pace Route 715 bus on my own and with friends. I felt so proud and comfortable taking the bus. I was a little nervous at first, but once I got to know the driver, learned how to ask questions, and practiced, I was good to go. I became a pro.
I have also taken a fixed-route bus from my home to the train station so I can work in the city at UIC. The Pace bus picked me up three blocks from my house. I love traveling this way because I get to meet some great people in my neighborhood who always take the bus with me and I got to know the driver. I have learned to be independent by riding on the Pace bus. It is great to take the bus and I feel so happy now that I know how to manage it.
I also have been working with Pace and JJ’s List for over 10 years doing Hop on the Bus to Independence Workshops and I love it. We usually do the workshops in person but because of the pandemic, we have been having virtual workshops for schools and transition programs. Students still get to “hop on the bus” and learn all about safety, accessibility features, and how to get around their communities.
I work with a team of great people who have become my friends. My partner Ed is funny and makes me smile and laugh. He helps me be successful. We work with JJ’s List staff and trainers from the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). Everyone is so nice and professional. They include me in decisions, treat me with respect, and see my abilities, not my disability. I am so proud to be on the team with them. Together, we make a difference by helping people with disabilities learn how to take public transportation.
Fixed-route public transportation for people with disabilities is so important because it helps us get to work, go to school, go shopping, and get around in the community on short notice. Mainly it helps us to be as independent as possible.
Working as a self-advocate for Pace has helped me build my leadership, self-advocacy, public speaking, and communication skills. I show other people with disabilities that it is safe and convenient to take the Pace bus. I get to be a role model for others and encourage them to use Pace to help them be successful too.
Bridget Brown is a young woman with Down syndrome who encourages people to “DWELL IN THE POSSIBILITIES.” She is a strong advocate of inclusive education and community living. Bridget is a national public speaker, an actress, and a person-centered planning coach. She helps people open their minds, hearts, and doors to include people of different abilities. Bridget is the second vice president of the National Association for Down Syndrome where she spearheaded a public speaker training program and a self-advocacy group. She is the recipient of many state and national awards. She works as a self-advocate on behalf of Pace Suburban Bus and is an intern at the UIC dental school. Bridget is the co-founder of her organization called BUTTERFLIES FOR CHANGE.