Committee Members Needed

Let’s continue the momentum from the Forum!

We are seeking volunteers to join new committees.

Do you enjoy planning get togethers?
Join the Events Committee and start organizing the next gathering.

Interested in shaping the future of our organization?
Join the Bylaws Committee.

Please email Bryen hello@bryen.com and Jason mrjsin@gmail.com with the committee you are interested in.

Thank You!

#ChicagoDeafBlindRocks

The DeafBlind Forum was AMAZING!

The first ever Chicago DeafBlind Forum was well attended! There were 77 participants in the DeafBlind session and 97 participants in the Ally session. Here is a recap of all the discussion topics.

DeafBlind Needs and Concerns:
Change name of LeCOBDA
Peer/Support Group
Family/Parent/Children Support Group
Family of DeafBlind Outreach
Communication: access; sign language classes; ProTactile workshops
SSP (Support Service Provider) volunteer programs
DeafBlind member workshops
Education accessibility
Transportation: needs drastic improvement; discount card; communication card
DeafBlind Committee volunteers needed

Ally Session Discussion Topics:
“LeCOBDA” establishing independence from Chicago Lighthouse by forming non-profit 501(c)3 organization (under new name)
We become point of contact for DeafBlind issues
Create peer support groups of DeafBlind in different locations
Create mental health advocacy group
Train Interpreters to work with DeafBlind
Establish state standards for DeafBlind Interpreting
Create SSP Registry
Develop SSP as recognized profession
Create sign language classes accessible to blind
Transportation- need text capabilities; send paratransit complaints to  passenger.services@pacebus.com
Collaborate with organizations for improved access
Advisory Committees need DeafBlind representation
Upcoming legislation on certified DeafBlind Intervenors for children at school
Develop identification card for DeafBlind

Our discussions will continue. We want to know your opinions.
Please contact a board member to join a committee!

The LeCOBDA Officers

#ChicagoDeafBlindRocks

DeafBlind Representation on CTA

Chicagoland’s DeafBlind community will now have representation!   Bryen Yunashko has been appointed as a member of the Chicago Transit Authority’s ADA Advisory Board with a term beginning in October.

So what is this board about?   Well, there are several ADA advisory boards for transit authorities in the Chicagoland area, including for PACE and CTA.  The CTA advisory board focuses on fixed route buses and trains.  Paratransit issues are usually handled by the PACE advisory board.

At present, there are blind and Deaf  people representing their communities.  But there has been no DeafBlind representation.  The CTA recognized that it is important to include DeafBlind people in advocating accessibility on public transit routes.

My Goals:

I won’t be joining the board to represent myself.  I’m here to represent YOU!  Plese, always feel free to submit your suggestions, ideas, concerns, and issues and I will make sure they are recognized.  And I will focus on ways we can innovate Chicago’s public transit system to make it more accessible to all of us.

As an example of some of the ideas I have, I will propose or work on several ideas.  Paratransit is a great option for many of us.  But for those of us who want to continue to use fixed routes for as long as possible, I believe there are some ways we can make it better:

Making Bus Stops more discoverable:  I will propose that current bus stop poles be phased out and replaced with a pole that is distinctive.  It can be frustrating to stand on the street waiting for a bus and you find out you were standing at the wrong pole.  Making tactile poles will help us to identify exactly where to wait for a bus.

Transmitting Information:  Did you know that when a bus makes a stop and opens iits doors, a loudspeaker on the bus announces the bus number and Route name?  It’s a great way to make it accessible for Blind people who cannot see the bus display.  But, it leaves out DeafBlind people.   Maybe you can see the bus but cannot tell if that is the correct bus to get on.  How do you know if it is Bus #12, or Bus #36?  However, buses are equipped with a GPS display that announces the stops on the route.

Wouldn’t it be great if technology could be changed so that when you are standing at a bus route, your phone or other device would vibrate when the right bus comes by?  Wouldn’t it also be great when you are riding the bus, and you cannot see the GPS display, you can have it sent to your device and you can customize the readability including font size and color?  I believe that this can be done and will make proposals to seek ways to develop such innovative technology.

Communication Card Development and Driver Training:  We need to develop and distribute effective cards to help DeafBlind people communicate to drivers where they want to go.  And we need to educate drivers how to recognize a DeafBlind person and provide appropriate assistance.

Comparing Nationally:  There are several regions across the United States where transit authorities have developed effective programs for working with DeafBlind travelers.  I will work to gather data and strive to make our transit authority equally as accessible or better than other regions.

Communicating Locally:  I will work to gather up information from all of you about what you want to see changed within the CTA to make it more accessible for you.

Those are my goals, let’s work together to make Chicago ACCESSIBLE!!!

 

 

Update on PACE Meetings

First of all, for those of you who are planning to attend Monday’s PACE City ADA Advisory Committee meeting, it has been postponed.  The new date of the meeting will be on June 17, 2013 at 1:00 p.m.  If you still wish to attend this meeting, you should contact linda.swedlund@pacebus.com to request accommodation services.

Yesterday, PACE held the joint City and Suburban ADA Advisory Committees Meeting at Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower.)  Many things were discussed about PACE fixed routes and paratransit.

A new Ventra system will be implemented that will replace the current farecard system.  The goal is to establish a single point of payment for all your transportation needs.  With one card, you will be able to use fixed bus routes, paratransit, and other services such as vanpools.   But there are concerns about the accessibility of the system, which will continue to be explored.

There are also plans to consolidate paratransit call centers to one location.  This should make things less complicated for determining what number to all for the service you need.  However, there is also a plan to implement IVR which stands for Interactive Voice Recognition.  In other words, this will become an automated system which voice recognizes your commands over the phone when you place a request for paratransit services.

Ray Campbell, chairman of the PACE Suburban ADA Advisory Committee, raised concerns about the lack of an alternative text method for communicating with paratransit services.  While PACE said they did not have a texting plan in place, Ray asked that higher priority be given to finding a solution to texting as an alternative to IVR.  He pointed out that this is a problem for DeafBlind consumers and those who prefer texting over voice calls.

We thank Ray Campbell for recognizing the importance of DeafBlind accessibility in the Chicagoland transit systems.  He is a good advocate for us and we are lucky to have him on our side.

During the public comment period, Bryen Yunashko also raised concerns about accessibility and ineffective communication methods when interacting with transit and DeafBlind travelers.    He urged that they not forget about the DeafBlind population and that an open channel needs to be established with the community so that past issues and concerns are no longer falling through the cracks.  After the meeting, Pace officials approached Bryen to discuss and express their concerns about how to improve relations with the community.

It seems we are on a good start now to building a better future for DeafBlind travelers of the Chicagoland transit systems.  It is up to you all now to voice your concerns and experiences and to share in a dialogue aimed at positive solutions.  Please, attend meetings or post comments here whenever possible.  Your input matters now more than ever.  If the Chicagoland transit authorities don’t hear from you, how can they know to work on solutions?

 

ALERT: Public Transit ADA Meetings

As we have been discussing at LeCOBDA meetings and here on ChicagoDeafBlind, DeafBlind people have concerns about the accessibility and service of public transportation and paratransit services in the Chicagoland area.  These are concerns that need to be addressed to the transit agencies, including CTA, PACE, and Metrarail.

There are two important ADA Advisory meetings coming up that are open to the public and we encourage you to try to show up at these meetings.  Both will be held at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for planning at the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower.)

One good bit of news.  The issue of getting appropriate text notification of paratransit pickups (which is a big concern that DeafBlind people have had for years) WILL be on the agenda for the upcoming May 14 meeting.   And they are interested in learning more about what DeafBlind people experience using the transit services.

Here are the details:

May 14, 2013

Joint PACE ADA City and Suburban Advisory Committee
Willis Tower
233 S. Wacker Drive, 8th Floor
Chicago, IL 
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
 

May 20, 2013

PACE ADA City of Chicago Advisory Committee
Willis Tower
233 S. Wacker Drive, 8th Floor
Chicago, IL
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
 

Accommodations

If you wish to attend these meetings and need an interpreter, you need to contact Linda Swedland, either via voice phone at (847) 228-4254 or email at linda.swedlund@pacebus.com.   Note that with this late notice, we may not be able to get interpreter accommodations in time for the May 14 meeting, but contact Linda anyway and let’s show DeafBlind representation at this meeting!

Security Notice

Be aware that the Willis Tower is a secured building.  You may be required to show proof of identiication and go through a metal detector to enter the building.

 

Public Transportation and the DeafBlind Traveler

Logos of the CTA, PACE, MetraRail and RTA agencies

At the April LeCOBDA meeting, a lively discussion was held about the current state of public transportation and the DeafBlind traveler.  Without a dbout, we rely on public transit to get around and perform everday life tasks including getting to work, going shopping, visiting family and friends, and going to events such as our own LeCOBDA meetings.

But is public transportation truly accessible for the DeafBlind traveler?  When we travel, are our communication needs being met?  Are we receiving proper information about where we are going and how to get there?  Are the bus stop signs and signs within subway and train stations easily readable?  If we lose our bearings, are we able to quickly get back on track?

In the Chicagoland area, public transportation is overseen by four important agencies:

  • CTA – Chicago Transit Authority — Serving buses and subways within the city limits
  • PACE – Suburban transit Authority — Serving buses beyond the Chicago city limits.  These include Cook County, DuPage County,
  • MetraRail – Commuter Rail line — Serving points between suburbs and downtown Chicago
  • RTA – Regional Transportation Authority –

All public transit can be divided into two major categories:

  • Fixed Route – These are established routes, usually by number or color, that run on a scheduled basis.  They can include buses, subways, and commuter trains
  • Paratransit – Is a service that provides door-to-door transportation for individuals who are unable to use fixed routes due to a personal disability.

We are highly motivated to begin a dialogue with the various agencies serving the Chicagoland area about how to improve services for DeafBlind travelers, and also to acknowledge things that work well currently.   This means it is time to include YOU in the discussion.

One of the most common complains we hear is communication.   When awaiting Paratransit service, there is no way to notify the DeafBlind traveler about arrival times except via phone call.  When interacting with persons working for Paratransit, there is room for improvement on how we can communicate face-to-face with each other.

But what about those of you who use fixed route transportation and do not rely on Paratransit?  We agree that sometimes it is more convenient to use fixed route buses and trains rather than use Paratransit.    Are there things that could be improved?  Would better signs make things easier?  Or how about a unique shaped pole to recognize a bus stop versus another street sign pole?

Communication cards would also be useful.  These cards are used often in other regions where DeafBlind people live.    What kind of information would you feel is most useful on a communication card to indicate your direction?

And have you ever had any negative experiences?   All these ideas and experiences are important to hear about.  It is time that we, as a community, get involved in shaping the direction of public transportation where we live, work and socialize.

Please feel free to the below comment section to begin the dialogue, or if you feel there is a private matter, you can send an email to info@chicagodeafblind.org.  This is your chance to make a difference!

 

Hearing Aid Legislation in Springfield

If you wear hearing aids, you know that buying a hearing aid can be very expensive.  Not only that, but most private insurers do not cover the costs of hearing aids.  With hearing aids now costing thousands of dollars per ear, immediate financial relief is sorely needed.

The Illinois State Legislature aims to put an end to this unfair practice of excluding hearing aids from private insurance coverage.  Right now, there are two bills moving through the Illinois State Senate and Illinois Sate House.  They are legislatie bills SB 38 was introduced by Chicago Senator Ira Silverstein and HB 1231 was introduced by Bloomington Representative Dan Brady.  Both bills want to make private insurers pay up to $2,500 per hearing aid per ear per every three years.

So contact your state representatives soon to let them know to please support these bills.  Legislators need to hear from you why this is so very important to all of us.   You can learn more about this legislation by clicking here.