Opening a van door to independence

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Its operation is simple.

But its quality-of-life ramifications are far reaching.

Stonebridge Community Services Special Services Coordinator Max Adam leaned inside the Multi-Service Centre’s wheelchair-accessible van’s passenger door and pushed a button. Sequentially, the passenger side rear door slid open, and sections of a lightweight, but sturdy ramp emerged, linking up into a secure unit as it hit the pavement.

“It’s really user-friendly,” said Adam, illustrating the van’s functional interior with a Vanna White-like sweep of one hand.

Passengers are wheeled aboard, said Adam, and manoeuvred into a forward-facing position. There are two straps to secure the front of a wheelchair and an additional two for the rear.

“And a seatbelt so passengers are locked in there.

“The rest is sort of simple,” he added. “Take them to their appointments and provide some conversation and company along the way.”

Operating Tillsonburg’s new wheelchair-accessible van’s door is comparatively simple. But its presence offers far-reaching benefits of independence to clients.

“That’s fair to say,” said Adam.

The 2008 Chevrolet Uplander van, upgraded by cold Line Mobility and Conversions, has been in operation since December 16, 2013 and accessed by several clients on multiple occasions. Its $25,000 purchase price (the conversion process accounts for around $16,000 of that total) was covered by one-time funding for accessible transportation and socialization from the New Horizons Program. Its ongoing operation is supported by sponsorship from DeGroote-Hill Chevrolet Buick GMC Ltd.

Statistical support for the funding came from the fact 46% of those attending Adult Day Programs (ADP) in the Southwestern LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) identified transportation as an issue; and in addition says Adam, that accessible transportation services were available in Tillsonburg only 40% of the time.

“It was a big deterrent to people being able to go out and do what they wanted.”

The van’s addition recognizes a government mandate toward accessibility by 2025, that says Adam, goes beyond buildings.

“That includes services.”

Its usage is defined as ‘non-urgent transportation’ for not only those in wheelchairs, but also those using walkers or mobility scooters to destinations including, for example, medical appointments, social visits or shopping.

“It helps them retain their independence,” said Adam.

It also includes a ‘socialization’ component represented by transportation to VON ADP functions, for example, for those with disabilities or those battling Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

The program is currently supported by two volunteer drivers (the MSC will be running a broader volunteer drive in conjunction with national volunteer week April 6-12). Cost for its services within Tillsonburg is $5 per passenger one way, and 43 cents per kilometre for out-of-town travel, which translates roughly into the $30 range for a one-way trip to Woodstock.

People are already making use of the service, says Adam, who expects its popularity to grow significantly based on affordability, flexibility of schedule and also in part because Tillsonburg is a retirement community.

“It feels good to be able to offer the service,” he concluded. “It’s part of what the MSC is focussed on, identifying and meeting needs in the community.”

Those seeking more information as either a client or volunteer driver, are invited to call 519-842-9008 extension 357 or 519-842-9000.




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