At the Lifeworks Golden Anniversary Celebration in 2015, we asked attendees to help fund transportation for the people with disabilities that we serve. Not only is transportation a consistent barrier that far too often makes it difficult for individuals to get the services that they need, but in many cases it also prevents them from having a job in the community – a fundamental need for anyone who wants to lead an independent, self-directed life.
Recently, Lifeworks Hastings saw the generosity of those who donated come to fruition when we unveiled a brand new van that will ensure people served by Lifeworks get where they need to go – safely and comfortably – for years to come!
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a need for reliable transportation moving forward. In any given year, Lifeworks vehicles travel as many as 500,000 miles, making the purchase of new buses and vans a regular priority.
Safety and comfort
Because wheelchairs outfitted with communication and medical devices are often cumbersome, Lifeworks has started investing in new buses that have been reengineered for both safety and comfort.
To make entering and exiting the buses easier for those who do not use wheelchairs, the wheelchair area, which includes lifts and tie-downs, was relocated to the expanded area at the back of the bus. This repositioning eliminates a potential tripping hazard.
In addition, the interior of the buses has been outfitted with fabric that is both quieter and warmer for clients, and railings have been painted bright yellow to allow those who are visually impaired to see them more clearly.
“Three cameras were also added to each bus to increase visibility for the driver and eliminate blind spots,” said Lifeworks Fleet Manager Bob Platz. “The buses are fully customizable, from seats and wheelchair tie-downs to the color of the interior.”
To obtain new vehicles, Lifeworks works with Telin Transportation Group, who combines the chassis selected by Platz with a body from ElDorado Mobility, one of the oldest manufactures of body-on-chassis buses in the United States.
Because of the ability to customize each vehicle, Lifeworks was able to present a unique opportunity to a client in Mankato who has a particular interest in transportation.
“There is a client in Mankato who is really interested in the new buses,” Platz said. “I came up with the idea to let him choose the details of a new bus, so he got to meet with the manufacturer and make his selections and sign off on them – it was neat to watch and all very official.”
Organizations like Lifeworks have essentially five options for transporting clients: operating a private fleet of vehicles, utilizing Metro Mobility, Transit Link, or city buses, or contracting with private bus companies to arrange rides.
Our commitment to finding creative ways to transport people is one of the characteristics that makes Lifeworks unique among organizations that provide services to people with disabilities.
While many providers shy away from services like Metro Mobility, the state-funded transportation system for people with disabilities, due to an elaborate system that requires each rider to go through a rigorous certification process, Lifeworks uses a hybrid system that makes use of all available options.
Instead of only certifying clients to ride Metro Mobility when they need to utilize the service, Lifeworks proactively ensures that all eligible clients are certified at all times so that if they were to ever need to use the service, they could so without delay.
While Lifeworks recently applied for and was awarded three grants from the state of Minnesota that will allow us to affordably replace three of the buses in our fleet, we are always in need of additional funding for transportation.
Currently, Lifeworks has a fleet of 30 vehicles – both buses and vans – that need to be regularly maintained and replaced so that the people we serve can travel throughout the community.
With the continued support of generous individuals like you, Lifeworks can help thousands of people with disabilities live an ordinary life – one ride at a time.
If you would like to make a donation to support transportation for people with disabilities, please visit lifeworks.org/donate