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OneRouge Community Check-In - Week 177

Have you been to one of our Transportation and Mobility Coalition meetings? Admittedly, most of the time we talk alternatives to driving because not everybody drives for whatever reason they don’t drive. We discuss how the sidewalks are not particularly well maintained if they exist. We prattle on about how bike lanes just end before cyclists get to their destinations. And we spend a lot of time critiquing the bus system and daydreaming about train services between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. What we don’t spend enough time discussing is how our neighbors with physical disabilities get around. So this week we will!

In October, Americans observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) by paying tribute to the accomplishments of the men and women with disabilities whose work helps keep the nation's economy strong and by reaffirming their commitment to ensure equal opportunity for all citizens. The 2023 theme is Advancing Access and Equity. Our featured speakers will be joining the OneRouge call to share their work, their advocacy, and their thoughts on transit equity.

Elizabeth Nealy Morgan - 2022 Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana

Jason White - transportation and disability advocate

Karen Denman - CATS ADA Coordinator

Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!



Pepper Roussel: Happy Friday, One Rouge! Thank y'all for being here. So very excited about this talk. This is gonna be great! Not that they all aren't great, I'm just saying. So, we are celebrating Disability Awareness Month and the 2023... And part of that theme is and part of what we do through OneRouge coalitions is very much along the lines of looking at both of those things.

I reached out to our Transportation & Mobility co-chairs and ask them to bring in some folks who might be able to speak with us about you access and equity and that's who we've got. In part who we have on deck. For this fine morning, there's some things I was saying to the internal crew earlier today, I had no idea, and I'm just going to start with Elizabeth because I had no idea that there was a Miss Wheelchair Louisiana, I didn't know.

I'm not saying that you don't deserve the honor, I am just saying I didn't know you existed. So I did a little bit of reading and there's a whole advocacy platform that you had to come up with. If you want to share any of those things before we shift to Jason, who is inside of our Transportation & Mobility circle please do let us know who you are, what you do, what we need to know.

Your five minutes starts now.

Elizabeth Nealy Morgan: Yes, I am the reigning Miss Wheelchair, Louisiana. And I was It's all about advocacy. It's not about a beauty pageant. And the two things that I've found that are most challenging and most limiting for people who in wheelchairs is transportation.

So, you've nailed one. And the other one is digital access. Internet broadband access is one of the most important things for me that helped me gain my independence through the Internet. And this was my platform on while I'm reigning as Miss Wheelchair, Louisiana.

Kudos to LA Connect through Vyneeth. He is accomplishing these very things that I'm talking about right now. He's got a coalition that's put together through our, through the federal government. We've been given a bunch of money. I'm talking about starting with a B, not an M. We've been given a bunch of money to implement these concerns.

And in order to do that, they're laying line. They're improving the width of the cable. I'm not very versed on all the technicalities of it, but I do know that it will bring when they're completed, it will bring access to people in rural areas who need the Internet. And why do I need the Internet to be independent?

I don't drive and I don't have a car, so I need to go to Walmart. I need to call Uber or Lyft because I don't I live by myself. I need to go to the doctor. I need transportation. What do I do? Internet is very helpful. I get my groceries delivered. I get essentially everything that I have to have on a daily basis.

I achieved that through the Internet. And so, I wanted digital access for everyone. People who live in rural areas, people who live in communities where they don't have the ability to afford the internet. I think it would be great if you're on disability, if the cable companies would just give you internet service, that wouldn't hurt.

And then also for folks who not been exposed to the internet, which I know that sounds impossible to believe. But there are a bunch of people like me. I was having trouble with Zoom this morning. “Take your mute off.” I didn't know I was on mute. For those folks who are not familiar with it, it would be great if we taught digital literacy classes at the library so people could come and learn how to use mobile apps like Instacart, how to pull up your phone, those things on the, on your phone.

That'd just be great. And so Vyneeth and his crew through the under the Governor's office and leadership have made huge strides in achieving this goal. And I frankly, I jumped in on the tail of the bandwagon. So, I get to say, “Yay,” I was a part of that, but I don't feel like I did anything except say as a human being who uses a wheelchair for mobility, this would really help me.

And if it helps me, it'll help others. So that's my soapbox. Pepper. I am happy to meet you and everyone else on the call this morning. Thank you, Tina, for inviting me to join and I'm just happy to assist in whatever way I can.

Pepper Roussel: I am absolutely thrilled that you were here. Knowing that coming off mute is not a limitation that is solely for those who are confined to wheelchairs who have any other sort of disability.

Let me let you know it happens to me all the time. And I am also on the bandwagon of having things delivered to my door. Not because I can't go, but because I brother. I don't know. It's what's the one of maybe three things that came out of the pandemic shutdown that I am in full support of and so I am so glad that it is.

It's helping people who actually need as opposed to people like me who are just lazy. And so shifting or rather not shifting but shifting our speaker to Jason who is a member of our Transportation Mobility Coalition, also connected to us through Tina. And so we'll do a shout out later on for that.

But for now, Jason, please let us know who you are, which do, and what we should know. Your five minutes starts now.

Jason White: Hey, my name is Jason White. I broke my back about 25 years ago when I was in college and it changed my life dramatically through... ups and downs and back to where I'm in a stable lifestyle.

And throughout this I've had the pleasure of owning a car. But there were times when I didn't. And trying to get around Baton Rouge is difficult without a vehicle. Especially for someone in a chair. I live in an affluent area. And, for me, personally, to get to a bus stop is half a mile away without sidewalks.

And as I go around Baton Rouge, I notice that there are a lot of not sidewalk places. I see people walking or riding their bikes in road or in the grass. And I, that's just a way of life here. And as part of my up and downturn, I became an alcoholic. And I am in recovery now. I have been for five or six years.

And I spend a lot of time around people who can't afford a car. They're starting their lives over again. And they are using a bus or a bike or walking daily. And one of their things that they talked about was there's the bus schedule on the weekends is different than on weekdays. For me being able to use public transportation was a huge ability to be free.

How, if you can't, I Uber. Sometimes I took the bus. I found out that there is public transport that will come to my house, pick me up, and take me someplace. But you have to work so hard at making that work, though, because you have to schedule ahead of time, you have to... There's a lot of paperwork to prove that you need this.

And so it's not just, “Hey, I just heard about this, I want to ride.” But it does exist. And I'd like, and I just fell across it, someone told me about it. I think if more people knew about it and how to, if the buses were easier to use or more advertised how to use them well for either myself or the special transport that I get access to I think would be really beneficial to others.

And having every day being able to have this access. And it's these, what we consider not the biggest things in life. But being able to move freely and go to friends houses, doctor's appointments, jobs, the park. It's a huge thing to feel safe and livable in life. Not to just be isolated like we all know what happens when you have to order all of your food through delivery.

Which I'm not against either. I like picking out my vegetables, but if it's anything else than something green that I want to squeeze, yeah, please come to my house. I'd love to use the internet and just order food or this and that. If you guys want to know anything about anybody in a chair anything, this, feel free.

I am an open book for you today. Thank you.

Pepper Roussel: What a generous and kind offer. I We'll probably rein myself in from asking ridiculous questions, but we've already got a couple that are popping up in the chat About the transportation. What are the barriers before we get to that because that'll be first in the list I want to shift over to Whitney and Karen Denman.

Whitney, please. Let us know who you are what you do and the advocacy work that we should be involved in and thanks to Kina for connecting us

Whitney West: Hi, I'm Whitney West and I am currently the law registrar at LSU Law. And I am a disability inclusion DEI advocate. I also just received my doctorate from Southern Mississippi and my, thank you. And my research was focused on the intersection of disability, race, and gender, specifically black women with chronic illnesses and disabilities in higher education faculty and staff.

My focus is. I find that in higher education, of course, our main focus is our students. And I'm very much involved in our ADA office and our Office of Disability Services. However, I felt that there was a gap with faculty and staff, such as myself being able to get the assistance they need, whether accommodations or making their spaces accessible, and I realized that came down to the issue that it is an employment issue a lot of times, and people sometimes feel as though when they disclose certain things when it comes to their jobs, that, those jobs could be in jeopardy.

They could face scrutiny. And so, they do not often disclose. And oftentimes I feel like because of that and because of other reasons such as able ism in our communities, that's been ingrained from the time we're born. That it often gets pushed to the side. So, I say, at universities specifically, our faculty and staff, we expect them to be here longer than four years, which is the average time a student is here.

We should be ensuring that the people who you want to stay for the long haul are comfortable and get their needs met. So that was the focus of my research. Currently, I also do a lot of work on training people about ableism and how to include disability inclusion into their work, especially HR companies and marketing companies.

I travel and speak to those companies as well as speaking to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers which I'm a part of, I did a presentation last year that prompted them to do an accessibility task force, which I co-chaired because I noticed the events were not as accessible as they could be.

For instance, we had an event in Denver. Almost everybody almost died. That place is too high in the sky. I was having trouble breathing. Other people's chronic illnesses were flaring, and other people who did not know they had an issue or... do not have issues were having issues. So, I made the point that these are things that we should relate to our members when they're going to locations.

Also, disability is not something to be ashamed of. We need to have. I want a badge. I want something on my badge to say I'm disabled. I want to, have, ways to represent the community that I'm a part of, like everyone else. As well, it was a huge location and it was actually not the biggest location we get to.

And I noticed some other companies who have conventions or conferences, they offer, they buy rent the scooters for the members to get around because I had to pay $250 to have my scooter for the week. And most people who have disabilities are near the poverty line and higher education pays pennies, so I know that was out of the reach for a lot of our members, and so I felt like we should need to shift that to the organization that has a lot more money and can do a better job in facilitating and ensuring that our members are able to get around and do the work that we're passionate about.

Without concern for our health. That is who I am. That is what I do. And I'm so happy to be here.

Pepper Roussel: Thank you so much, Whitney. All right. The conversation thus far I know y'all know why we're here and talking about equity and access and what does it take in order to ensure that all of us can live healthy, fulfilled and rewarding lives.

Not just those of us who have cars and can drive or. walk on these nonexistent sidewalks. Karen, I know that you don't control sidewalks, but can you share a little bit about who you are, what you do, and how we can get folks from point A to point B?

Karen Denman: Good morning, everybody. Good morning. My name is Karen Denman.

I am the ADA manager for CATS on Demand. We provide transportation for individuals with disabilities. First I, I must say, I love my job. I love my job. I love in making a difference for someone to be able to live a normal, healthy life for someone that can travel freely without any barriers.

But unfortunately, as we all know, bad news sidewalks are horrible, roads are horrible, but for the most part our program, we really impact a lot of people and help them to achieve their goals and with transportation. It cost it it's a major cost, to provide it, but that still shouldn't stop the individuals, with disabilities from wanting to go places and do things, without having to depend on others to do that.

So, we do provide transportation. We could go 3/4 of a mile from our nearest bus stop. Yes, we do have an application process. That you have to go through. It's four pages that you have to complete and have your doctor to fill out and come in for your interview, which that contains getting that ID card.

And, if those that are eligible, they can ride CATS on Demand, but our fixed route buses are also wheelchair safe as well. We do travel training to help individuals that want to utilize the city bus. Because a lot of people don't want CATS on Demand. They want to be able to go out, catch a bus when necessary and not have to schedule their trips.

We provide what, 400 trips a day. And that may equate to 5000 and some more trips a month. We're a small company, but in the same token, we don't tell them we can't take their trip. It just may not be the times that they're needing because there's so many people that's, coming on scheduling trips and the bulk of our transportation is dialysis.

I hope that, some type of funding will come across to where we can really grow this service bigger and better and expand out to those that are needing transportation. And just try to do the best we can. We appreciate our riders. And the individuals that have said, utilizing a wheelchair, you have that right to go places and where we could come in front of your home.

But I'm glad I jumped on the meeting and it was early. I was trying to get my kids to school and I was like, “Oh God, not 8:30 AM!” But for the most part, thank you for the invite. And I'm just excited to hear what others have to say and how we can accomplish this gold. And if there's any type of funding that's out there that can help assist us, please let me know.

Pepper Roussel: Oh, fantastic. I am so glad you ended early. So, you got 2 minutes left so I can ask these silly questions like yeah. the funding for cats on demand, right? That is part of the overall CATS budget. Or how does that work? And the reason I'm asking is for no other reason than I don't know.

What is this? What is this process, right? So, if we know that we have folks who need to get from point A to point B who may need More than more, more than, dialysis transportation, what is standing in the way of us being able to provide that as a community?

Karen Denman: For the most part the transportation for CATS on Demand if it's difficult for an individual to go out and try to catch the bus, if you can't navigate from one bus.

Pepper Roussel: Oh child, it's difficult for me to go out and catch the bus. I can't imagine if you're trying to roll around from one place to the next. Yeah. Yeah. If there are barriers, no sidewalks to get to a fixed route bus. I have my riders that, choose to use fixed route, but most likely, cats on demand would be good for them.

Karen Denman: So, they have that option, but it's really an easy process. The only thing is that it's a lot of people that goes to service and will everybody get the times that they're looking for? Most likely they won't. Maybe it's a shared ride program. So not like Uber or Lyft where we take you straight there and bring you straight back.

So, you are sharing rides with others. And which at times it could be an inconvenience for some, but for the most part, I tell people, we're good at what we do and we try our best to accommodate, those.

Pepper Roussel: So, talk to me, anybody who and this is for all of our panelists. I have never actually seen this application, this four-page application.

What does it take to fill it out? And what does CATS need in order to provide the service?

Karen Denman: Okay. So, the page 2 and 3 is going to be for the riders information. The address, telephone number, if they utilize a mobility device or how many blocks do they have to walk, to get to a bus stop.

What are the most frequent places that they travel? Then page 4 and 5 consists of the doctor's statement. And that's telling me, what the disability is. And how does it affect them? Could they use a city bus? So, I look at that application just to give me a feeling on, the individual and their disabilities.

And then when they come in to meet with me, then, that's when I go over the process of how to schedule, how to cancel, the do's and the don'ts. And at that point, I'll determine, okay, yeah, this person is eligible. Nine times out of 10. The average person that come in, they are eligible for cats on demand.

So, it's not a difficult process. It may be difficult if the doctors have not completed the paperwork and sent it over, but as soon as we get an app in, we send that letter back out letting them know, “Hey go ahead and call the schedule to come in for an interview so we could get the ball rolling.”

Elizabeth Nealy Morgan: I'd like to make a comment. The application process itself is a barrier. The people who do not have transportation. because it's not a difficult application barrier in order to get my doctor to sign off on it, which he certainly will. He's happy to do that. I have to make an appointment to go to my doctor when I don't have a ride to get there.

That caused me whatever the copay is to go see my doctor. Then once I get the paperwork done. I've got to make an appointment to come to cats on demand and have, it's not really an interview. You're just meeting me and making sure that I really actually do need a ride. Then I need a ride there.

So, for someone who doesn't have transportation and I hope I didn't give off the wrong vibe earlier that I can just take Lyft or Uber whenever I want. That's very, that is not at all. I really budget myself because I live on disability,

I'm just helping. I'm sure I want to break it down into the reality of what it's like to have no transportation.

Another thing apply directly to you, but I want to get this in before I don't have a chance to say it. I really, we've mentioned it before, the sidewalks are atrocious. So, to get anywhere, walk I say walk anywhere, wheeling is an issue because once you get on the sidewalk, you have these no curb cuts, so you essentially drop off into the street and hope that a car is not coming.

Also ramps onto the bus. I've taken the city bus before and not all buses have the handicapped accessibility feature and there are some of them have no ramps. So, the bus that I personally took, the driver of the bus had to get off the bus and actually carry me onto the bus and then put my chair on the bus, which doesn't feel very accessible.

Huh. Huh. I know that costs money. Karen, I know all of it costs money. I applaud you for what you're doing now. CATS on Demand is a great service. I wish we had more that could pick people up like you said because the main complaint that I hear from others about CATS on Demand is they get you where you're going on time but coming back to pick you up is where they're very late.

I don't know how y'all do all your scheduling and stuff and I'm sure it's logistical.

Karen Denman: Right. As far as coming for your interview, we will pick you up. Yeah, we pick our riders up if they're needing transportation to bring them to our office and then we take them back home.

As far as getting the apps filled out, for some of our, and if they've never written before that's just one of our processes that, we can provide the transportation once the application is completed and if you're able to fax over the application to your doctor's office or even if you were to, call him and say, “Hey, is it okay if I let CATS on Demand fax over section two of the application so you all can fill out.”

So, we'll be more than happy to do that on your behalf because, they just want it, give us the information. For as far as the buses, all the ramps are, should be working. Now, if that ramp isn't working remotely, then the operators are trained to do it manually. If it's on the fixed route bus yeah, we may have some issues with a lift on paratransit.

But if we know that individual utilizes a wheelchair, then we're not going to send that bus out there to you because it's, it's not going to help. And we don't want them lifting up on the riders or anything like that, that could cause injuries. But for the most part, everyone, of course, has their opinion. We are a shared ride program. If the riders are not ready for their pickup at the time when the driver comes, then now, they would have to wait because everybody else needs to be picked up for their scheduled time.

So, it's all about, educating. Our riders to let them know, look, maybe schedule a two-hour trip instead of a one hour because if your doctor runs over the time and we come, now you missed your trip, so it's just a lot of things that we probably can, do better as far as, scheduling how they really need to schedule.

Because again, like I said, when we have 400 trips a day, like it's a lot it's a lot. Yeah. So, we'd be more than happy to help you try it again.

Pepper Roussel: Absolutely. Before I jump in through my ableist eyes, Is there anything else that our panelists with disabilities want to share or say about access?

Jason White: Yeah, I think that what Karen is saying makes a lot of sense. I didn't know how to use the system properly. And I can see how some suggestive training, I'm saying that nicely because I don't know how to use to say that, but how to train passengers to take a one hour trip expected to say to put a huge buffer on both sides because normally as a guy that drives a car, I go from point A to point B, I don't consider the logistics a different transportation system, and I don't see them, and I don't understand them.

So that needs to be made aware to all of us that would use this process. And how to get our doctors to fill out paperwork without having to take an Uber to the doctor's office to pay for both of those things, it used to be to make that, “Oh yeah, by the way, just send this to your doctor. This is how you do it.”

It's on the website. Here's how to access that. It felt overwhelming to me because I didn't know any of these things beforehand. And I don't know how to make that more accessible. Maybe that's what we're all here for. Thank you.

Karen Denman: No problem. Anytime. And like I said we try our best to put CATS on Demand out there.

Word of mouth is the best advertisement, right? And a lot of people may not understand how it actually works anytime. If anybody have any questions, reach out to us, where we can, let you know the process and what all needs to be done. And if we can send that paperwork, fax it over to the doctor's office, we'll be more than happy to do and then they'll just email mail it back to you and then send us a full complete application. So, we have a 21-day turnaround, for the respond back to you. But as soon as we get it, yeah. We mail it back and say, “Okay, look schedule now, scheduling process. We've interview on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

We're trying to get another day in, but because of the high volume of transportation that we're providing, it, it may take, 15 days or so, but if I go over 21 days, then I'll give you temporary ridership until I could get you in my office.

Pepper Roussel: So, Karen, there's a question in the chat. Are you the only person who's reviewing these applications?

Karen Denman: I have an assistant, Ms. LaVonne Shell. Once the applications come in, she does the intake, make sure everything is completed. She does the intake of the apps, mail off the letters to the riders.

And then one they get the letter, then they could call for the interview process. So, it's two of us.

Pepper Roussel: And so, I've got a stupid question. If you will send cats to pick folks up to bring them to your office for the interview, can you just do the interview when you go to get them?

Am I oversimplifying? I don't...

Karen Denman: We have to get the application in first, and once we receive the application through the mail, because that's mostly how individuals send it through, is through the mail. We still have to give that demand service. You still have to put service out on the streets. Basically, this is on Thursdays are the days that a contractor is able to take a vehicle or bring my rides to me for their interview.

Elizabeth Nealy Morgan: Could we do a Zoom call for an interview?

I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I said, would it be possible for us to do a Zoom call for our interview?

Karen Denman: If we're looking at one of them, that's something we could probably think about. Yeah, that's something we could probably think about doing is a Zoom. Because I do give out ID cards. And so that in person interview is, one of the things that we've been doing because of the fact that, I've received applications for individuals, that said they were disabled, but they weren't.

And when they came in, it was more or less, oh, I just didn't want to stand in the heat. So it wasn't something that, that would prevent them or make it difficult for them to use the city bus. And that's when everybody have that time to ask questions and where we can really sit down with them.

Cause I don't put a timeline on how long our interview can, can start or end because I want to be able to make sure that when they finish with me that they are aware of what's going on, but also be able to call me back if it's 50 times I have to talk to you. So therefore you understand we're going to talk 50 times, so it's, I just like that in person style, but it's something that we can discuss, or go over and try to see if we could do zoom.

Pepper Roussel: So, I, listen, I have an invisible disability. P. Tuck and I were talking about that this morning. Now that I have the second there are many things that in this moment I am oversharing, but I was just diagnosed last year and I am not a crier. Anybody who knows me knows I am not a crier. I was hysterical in the Walgreens because the people behind the counter presumed I knew a whole bunch of stuff.

I didn't know that I needed a sharp on top of whatever the insulin thing was in order to even take a shot. I didn't know how to get myself shots. I didn't know what it meant to have to be shooting up in bathrooms. It was stressful on levels I have not experienced in years. Since my divorce and custody battle.

Stressful. Let me let you know the level that we're talking about. So, when I'm asking these questions, I'm asking because I don't understand why it is that in order to keep folks who, or at least what it seems like, and so I need you to set me straight. In order to keep a handful of people who may be masquerading as disabled, to make it difficult for them to get the transportation, that we are making it so complicated for those who are sitting in wheelchairs.

It feels mean, it feels that we can do better and listen, I don't sit in a wheelchair, I'm just saying this is what it sounds like to me. So I'm asking not because I'm attacking not be, because I am trying to understand can we do better? Who do we need?

Can we put together some sort of a task force with y'all over at CATS in order to make this easier? How do we get to a place that, that these folks get what they need? And I'm not bothering you, I'm just asking.

Karen Denman: I'm saying I get it. And I guess for the most part so we don't know that if a person utilizes a wheelchair or a rollator, they don't mark on the application, but when they come in for the interview, they may have these mobility devices that they utilize.

And as far as, someone that utilizes a wheelchair. I really had not found it difficult for them as far as to come in and do the application process. Maybe no one has really reached out and said to Karen, this is really hard for me. But this is like the first that I've heard of, if anybody's having trouble to get in.

And now getting the application completed. Yes, we've heard that. But as far as because they don't have transportation and that's with or without a mobility aid. But we really try to accommodate individuals as much as possible. And if they do utilize the wheelchair, then, they need to tell us, but I agree that maybe we could do a zone, and that would help where they don't have to call and come in.

Okay. I can stay out on the street to accommodate our regular transportation that we provide. So, it's something that, we can look at, like the internet, some people don't have WiFi, some people not able to connect to me or we're shifting to that for day after coming.

Pepper Roussel: Yeah. All right. So, Whitney, you just put something in the chat that thank you for this. Can you expound on what you've seen, what you know, and because I was going to ask what do you know about the transportation needed coming from schools?

Whitney West: Yeah. This is part of our research too, and talking to ADA coordinators and things about what people need.

And I've found being part of the community myself is that we're used to getting stuff done around the barriers. So, you may not hear the complaints because they're already used to like, okay, this is what I have to do, I have to make this work. And they're not complaining. But there are very few fraudulent cases and but often many companies do plan around those.

Which is also why people get harassed for using their accessibility placards because someone can't see, you know why they need it. But I will say that in terms of getting transportation on and off campuses, there isn't a lot of thought to it. People are operating out of compliance. These are the things we need instead of this is this.

These are the services we can provide to make. it better for everyone. Like we have visually impaired students who need assistance getting around, but they have to reach out and do so much. They may have to hire someone themselves. They're taking ubers to certain places, and that is a burden, especially when you're paying high tuition costs.

I'm at the law center you're paying a good amount of money here. And I've been talking to some ADA coordinators some of them have moved away from needing as much paperwork as well as having people sign the waivers and on the front end so that they can send that to the doctor and get the information back some cases where I'm like, we can see that this student needs assistance, but for instance, we've had a student that is a black woman, she's had trouble with the doctors even acknowledging her issue.

But we have seen the issue play out here. So regardless of what the doctor, the household doctors are giving her as a black woman in the medical field trying to get help, we know that this is an issue. We should be able to provide her with her accommodations, make accessible plans without that because we can actually see it.

And I have had to deal with the ramifications. So, I do think there are ways to make it easier. A lot of companies are just scared to take away things when that proof to provide proof. But you're going to see that there is, there's not as much fraud as people believe there is. And then there's simpler ways, like even for that zoom you probably could get in more people.

Like you said, you don't limit the time. That's probably gonna help you go through more people instead of getting people in and out of your office especially with that confidentiality piece you and your breaks as well. You might, you need to go take a break. You need to have a moment to breathe and downtime as well.

So that could be very helpful for you.

Karen Denman: Thank you. Thank you. Yes. It's a lot that could be taken into consideration. And when we interview, we don't get breaks. Because we're steady on the road, we see 6-8 people a day, It's a lot to be learned and a lot of, a lot of people and it's difficult like going on campus to try to pick up our riders, because like we, we wait five minutes, because of the tight schedule that the operators have some buildings like LSU campus, they don't have address, so we have to try to figure out okay, where are we picking them up? And with the size of the vehicle, it's so difficult sometimes to go in between, two cars parked on, both sides of the street. So it's a lot of barriers, but we, we do our best to try to find a way to be able to pick up and drop off without them having to go through any extra steps to do.

Pepper Roussel: Jason and I were talking in about the process, right? Because I'm learning through this month of how to get around, how much time does it take? So, Jason, can you just share with the rest of the coalition just timing, right getting from point A to point B, doing little mundane things that we take for granted.

Those of us who don't have the extra considerations. to take into account. And then I do want to spend some time, Manny, and please don't take your hair away talking about broadband and what it, what could that look like?

Jason White: This is actually quite an intimate and good question. Because I'm used to thinking, okay, I want to do something.

I work up the courage to do it. I convince myself that I can do it and that it's alright to do it. And this takes flow and effort. It's not a schedulable, it, when I'm stable and I'm feeling good and strong as a human, it's a very scheduled thing. But when I'm not, which is a lot of the time it's, you, if you don't have access to a vehicle or immediate transportation or walk down the street and catch a bus after waiting for 15 or 20 minutes, maybe even 30 when you have to schedule ahead of time, you have to be prepared for that.

You have to be ready for that. And when I, if I get invited to go do something let's say I go to an AA meeting. I know what's where those are going to be and when they're going to be. Not a problem. What if I get invited to do something the next day? What if I've been depressed all week and I haven't gotten out of the house for four days?

But somebody calls and checks on me and they say, hey, how you doing? You want to meet up for coffee? These aren't easy things to do with the way our transportation system is set up, a lot of the times in this city. And those little things make a huge difference. That human contact, those being able to, okay, I don't have any food.

I need to go get some. I don't, we do have, we can have food delivered, so that's not a good example, it's just what I thought of. But it's these small instances, or if my doctor's appointment gets scheduled in and they have to reschedule me. How am I going to reschedule a ride that I had to schedule for ahead of, a few days out or some time out?

And, it's just these small changes that... In this city, the way that our system is set up are very hard, can be very hard to account for, and it's these little things that can make the biggest difference to us. That's all I got. Thanks. I hope that answers your question.

Pepper Roussel: It really does, and I saw a number of head shakes that were going on.

And I think it's something that Elizabeth mentioned. I don't want you to misunderstand, Uber's not easy for me. Uber's easy for nobody. It's expensive for no reason. And delivering food to your door, despite my lazy is not, it's not free. It is not free. And if you're talking about delivering, prepared meals, that's an extra 30 percent on top, right?

For folks who are living on a fixed income, And I only smirk because my grandma used to say it, God bless her and rest her soul as I think of her and her Tabs that she used to slide underneath the bed so nobody else would drink them. The fact is that, it's if we are just adding barriers in order to ensure that folks don't have to use what's there.

I don't know that we're helping. And I want to be helpful. I always, I don't always know how. But I want to be helpful. And so ,speaking of me trying to do the things we talked earlier about educating folks on how they can use their smartphone in order to place orders, how they can fill out those applications for cats how it is that they can get broadband, right?

For the ALICE community Manny, I know that you do work in broadband. Who might we need to connect you to, or what might you need to know in order to get these services to folks who need it? Sure. So

Manny Patole: as there are a multitude of different organizations that are working in this space throughout Baton Rouge.

But sometimes it's not always sadly accessible, right? For those of you, as we're oversharing during this fall. My, my mother has been disabled since 1983. So, I'm very familiar with all the things that everyone's been talking about. And then, for the last 10 years, she's been legally blind on top of that.

It's very difficult in New York City for, you're using Accessiride because of all those access issues and timing and scheduling. And especially for a person that is not digitally literate. She has to do everything by phone, right? I have a long landline, things like. But I digress. For this work I know that we are working with folks at BRCC. We've been talking with folks at Walls and OneRouge about how to increase those opportunities for teaching folks about how to access some of these forums, do these forums, things like that, but also increasing digital literacy and to that end, we're also looking to hire what we're calling digital champions, those folks that after people get connected to the internet either from Cox or whomever else then what, right?

How do they actually connect to the web? How do they understand as Miss Morgan talked about before about, I don't know how to use these apps. What do these things do?

How do you know what not to click on, right? These are all things that are very important that if you're not, a lot of folks kids or grandkids have grown up with this all their lives.

So, it's second nature to them. Some of us on this call have grown up before the age of the internet and have been aware of things that were, rotary in nature. So, it's hard, you have to understand that. That spectrum of what people's lived experiences are. And how do you meet them where they are?

So, to that end, yes, one, we're willing to help and cooperate with folks that are on this call about increasing digital literacy for all folks across the board, but also looking to hire some folks that work in this space to help with increasing the education around it.

Pepper Roussel: I hope that answered your question.

It does. Follow up though, real quick. This education piece of things. Do they need to be able to climb poles and install wires or so I guess I thank you for the shameless plug. Pepper. No. So when we're looking at hiring, everyone's going through the same field technician training.

No one's climbing anything higher than 10 ft ladder. If it's higher than 10 ft, we're not installing it. And then in terms Those are the other technical skills, right? We're meeting people where they are. But it's good, it's a six-week program that people are also paid during the time they've been training.

I actually have three interviews after this and then four more interviews I get off the plane on Tuesday in Baton Rouge. Looking for young folks, looking for older folks, looking for disabled folks, looking for every folk, that's what I'm asking.

Pepper Roussel: All right, so I've got a question in the chat and we're going to start to wind down because I only asked for an hour of your time. The interview. Does the interview happen after the doctor's note or before the doctor's note, trying to remember the steps? So if somebody faked a need do they need doctor's approval before or after?

Karen Denman: I'm sorry. The application process is the first step that we go through. Once we receive that application, then that letter goes out to let the rider know to go ahead and call and schedule for the interview. And it, the doctor statement is it helps us, tto see exactly what's going on. So, when the rider comes in, we're pretty much prepared, to go ahead, take their picture, go over the process, what needs to be done and certify for, for cats on demand.

And so, there was a mention and I can't see it just now, but I'm scrolling through that there are other resources besides cats on demand. No offense. Is there, can we share, can y'all drop in the chat some resources that would be. Excuse me, available, maybe a little faster, maybe they're cheaper.

I don't know if in order to fully fund CATS on Demand requires the capital spending so that we can get all these folks in, then I want to be sure that we at least leave folks without alternatives. And... If there's anything that I have missed, please, y'all please come off mute and let me know or raise your hand.

Ah, here we go, question for Whitney. Have you seen any employers offering mobility supports or logistics as a benefit? And the answer is that it's limited. Unsurprising.

Casey Phillips: Pepper, being that you love the energy towards Whitney can I do pickleball, which I've never played by the way, this is my pickleball swing, so pickleball it back over to Whitney,I couldn't help but just sit in the space and wonder if there is, Pepper will say all the things, right?

This is a brave space as Manny has, established for years now. Whitney, if there was one thing that you would want to say that you normally don't say, What would it be to like raise aware just whatever it is. Pickleball.

Whitney West: That's a good question. Putting me on the spot, but I started talking about it in the chat that sometimes people's it's like a vitriol.

I think some people have towards helping people get the accessible need that accessibility that they need. As I mentioned, I had issues with access. We had an elevator out. We have an escalator. It was off when I called about it. I had met with all types of pushbacks and it's I'm a colleague.

Help me get to my workspace. Why is there an issue? Providing me access. And so, I think that is the pushback that a lot of people are getting and there is not a lot of compassion for people with disabilities. People think people with disabilities are less than we can do less than, which is why there was, it has been an employment issue, which is why this month is so necessary.

Even with the pandemic, there's been a huge spike in increase of employment for people with disabilities because they can work remotely. Even things just thinking that working remotely, you're not doing work. People often say, “Oh she's not here. She's not working.” It's I'm probably doing more work at home than I would do sitting in here because I'm hanging out in here.

I'm going to get some lunch, drinking some stuff, getting some coffee. But it's that limiting factor that people think people with disabilities can't, shouldn't, or won't. And I'm frankly sick of it. And that is one of the things I'm pushing back with teaching people about ableism. And how it's ingrained from birth.

One of the main stories I like to tell is that, people will be like, Oh what are you having as a baby? And they're like, “Oh, it doesn't matter as long as it's healthy.” But I'm like what, of course, but what if it's not? What, where's the plan there? What are we talking about?

So, it's not to say that people shouldn't say that, but that's how deeply ableism is ingrained. It's thought about our health before we're born. We need to begin thinking about how to make the world accessible before people are born as well. So, I know that was long, but that's my skill.

Casey Phillips: I appreciate you sharing that and everything that you said today. And Pepper, may I say just again, kudos on curating and facilitating a really impactful call. Jason, I also wanted to just say how much I appreciated how vulnerable and open you were in your sharing. You made me want to roll just come over and have coffee together if you would ever have me.

You seem like a really, just genuinely, really sweet human. And Elizabeth, thank you for teaching as Manny said, there's a lot of folks that are working around the digital equity plan, both locally on the state and the federal level. And it sure as heck is going to take everyone in Louisiana to work on it together to actually establish and continue being number one in the country on righting the wrong of it, especially in the rural parts. And I feel like I really want to thank you for helping personalize like a data statistic when people talk about the need for rural broadband and really bringing your story to that and really making it hit home And also it's rad to meet a queen. Every time I get to, so it's great to meet you.

And Whitney, I appreciate you sharing in Miss Karen. I'm going to end with you. We don't know each other. As said Cheri is obviously the co-chair, one of the co-chairs of the Transportation and Mobility Coalition under OneRouge, which Raymond Jetson with MetroMorphosis and Pepper and everybody else on the team works with Tina and and our friends over there on it and anytime someone who works for a system is willing to step into the community space, right?

And absorb. the questions. And not be defensive, first of all, which is hard because this work is personal. I appreciate that. And because of the energy that you brought into that space, because you are one of only two people working on an issue that clearly needs more capacity and lots more funding.

And that is part of the work of one route just to figure out how to bring more federal dollars into our city, just like what We were able to do with the USDA and American Heart Association want to keep that streak up. I'd really encourage you to engage in the work with that. And I don't know, folks, I feel like we just there's a little tremor in the spider web that maybe the application process for cats is going to potentially evolve.

And make the Karen and her assistant show more effective and maybe add more capacity to and more people understanding what the access is and open up more opportunities. And that's why talk is important, right? Yeah, we gotta speak with each other and I appreciate all bringing the energy to the space and pepper again.

Elizabeth Nealy Morgan: Kudos, my friend. I'd like to say one thing before we end our call With voting being time sensitive, wouldn't it be amazing if we addressed the disability issue of getting people from their houses to voting facilities? It seems like that has, should have already been addressed, but it hasn't. There's no, no solution to that. It'd be great though.

Casey Phillips: Voting matters. Joaquina, come on in the space.

Joaquina: Good morning, y'all. So, I'm thinking about some of the through lines between all the things we heard. Karen, you also don't know me, but I just want to say thank you for the advocacy you're doing, which you've been doing.

I think I can definitely tell that there have been some gaps and you do. Most black women do, which is you make it work, right? But it, yeah, like that's what we do. So I just want to say that. And it, all of these things make me wonder, are we regularly doing accessibility audits in our city?

Meaning, is there a unit or some office, right? That their primary job is to be looking at our Paris City infrastructure services. And actually doing an assessment, right? It's easy for me as a DEI person to be like, “Ooh,” cause we love assessment. We're always here to be like let's get surveys out and stuff.

But it seems like what you're sharing, Karen, is just indicative of some larger systems that might need to overhaul. And so that's what I'm curious about. Is there some kind of medium that exists in our city, Paris space that regularly audits? All of what I would call these kind of accessibility services, right?

I'm not sure of the different types of meeting what I could do.

Karen Denman: Our interim CEO Theo Richard. He would be able to really answer that question. And as far as the funding process, Theo is, really good person. He's out there in the community. He knows a lot about the different things that are going on.

So I would strongly say, that would be the person that that you could reach out to or just call me, email me and I could pass that on to him where he can, give you a call back because maybe there's not enough people at the table when they're building new communities, when they're doing apartment complex on business this is, sidewalks, it included curb cuts aren't included.

So, when we have to drop somebody off on a fixed route in the street because there are no sidewalks, no curb cuts, no landing pads, then yeah, it's an issue. Maybe it just need to be more people at the table when these things come up to where, our voices can be heard to say that, hey, you may have individuals with disability live in this complex or work for this business.

So, make it more accessible, for all, not just, where they have to figure out how to get around.

Pepper Roussel: Yeah, something that Morgan mentioned in the chat, if we, to paraphrase, if we build for the accessibility that we don't have to worry about making things accessible.

ATB, what you say?

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Good morning, everybody. I just wanted to respond to Jaquina. I hope I'm saying it right. Is it Joaquina?

Joaquina: Kina is fine. You can call me Kina.

Alfreda Tillman Bester Kina, you sound like every passionate advocate that I know. We want to make sure that everybody is represented and that every voice is represented. It's important that we have compassionate.

Diverse voices at every table and in many cases that we'll have a bigger table so that we can have those voices, but the challenge is the austerity that we don't adequately fund anything. There is nothing, no, there is nothing in our society that we adequately fund. And that's because we don't want to tax people, which is insane because it's always been about the redistribution of wealth.

That's what taxes is. That's what taxing is. And, we have to have the political will. to be able to fund these things. And it's, it is so critical that we have differently abled people involved in every aspect. And Whitney, I want to say to you, you remind me of what my mother taught us growing up.

That, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us and we're not limited by anything but ourselves and so kudos to you for what you do and you didn't just stop at getting the master. She went all the way to the doctorate. Y'all go ahead with me.

Pepper Roussel: Oh, thank you so much. I really appreciate all of you for being here. We are at 9:42. ATVNlooks like you are well behaved today and you're a great Co. Your colleague over here, Flitcher Bell is gonna make me mute it. Say it.

Casey Phillips: I also just wanna tell people, say it before the sheriff's vote tomorrow.

Say it.

I dropped an article in the chat called the Curb Cut Effect. It's something that I utilize in a lot of my training. I would recommend people read it because basically the argument is that when we serve those who are most vulnerable in our populations with things like literally curb cuts, right?

Then everyone is able to benefit from them.

Pepper Roussel: So if anyone, there's a lot going on in the chat, but that might be a helpful read. We haven't talked about sidewalks. We haven't fully gotten into curb cuts. We haven't talked about language barriers because surely not everybody who is Disabled is an English native English speaker.

So we will be having another conversation about this. I just want you to know Yeah, hey there. Hi there. Ho there Thanks to all of our panelists for being here on this fine Friday. I really appreciate you sharing part of your morning with us. And absolutely incredible of knowledge that y'all have shared.

I am humble enough to say I didn't know half of the things that y'all shared with us this morning. So I appreciate you giving us not only of your time, but also yourselves. Oh,

Casey Phillips: it looks like Helena wants to kick off community announcements.

Pepper Roussel: Very good. Helena, what you got?

Helena: Okay. Hey so tomorrow at the Goodwood Library on the second floor in the tech room, which is straight across from once you get off the stairs past the open computers, we're hosting two workshops, one on Intro to Google Suite.

So all thing Google. And then the second one after that is Intro to Unity, which is game development. So if you are, or know somebody who's ever been interested in learning how to do, develop games, we'll talk about that pathway. It’s free to come. It's 3 - 5 p.m. Each workshop's an hour, and you can stay for both and love to see y'all there.

Casey Phillips: Thanks. And by the way, I did just want to note that all of our adult training all of our adult training is purposely actually online. These workshops are an entry way to our year round training so that it's more accessible to as many humans as possible of where they are. So these workshops are just a preview of what people learn in the Futures Fund adult training classes year round.

So if you're interested, drop a note. And they said, unless you're rich those classes are free folks. So I said, drop her an email at Helena at the walls project. org. If you are interested in exploring a career in tech, or just want to build a website for your own brand that you want to launch and change the world with no better thing to do to know how to code your own website and not be reliant on other human beings for your digital storefront.

Marcela Hernandez: Good morning. Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for this wonderful conversation. I wanted to say two things quick one, please mark your calendars. We, Lori is organizing a small event to express the gratitude to our partners and our community leaders for helping us to strength our organization and our communities and to advance Lori's mission.

We want to have this banquet, this thank you banquet really to let you know that without your ongoing support our, to our events, their initiatives and our community wellbeing, we, we will not be where we are today. This thank you banquet is also going to be a platform for our welcoming initiative campaign.

So we're asking all of you for your attendance. You'll be receiving emails from me and the flyer and the invitation, but I want to make sure that you mark your calendars now. It's going to be on November 11th from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. And we're going to do it at the Family and Youth and Service Center at the office, which is located on the 1120 Government Street in Baton Rouge.

Please mark your calendars and make sure you comb. And then, also, I wanted to remind you, for all of those that are wanting to do something fun tomorrow, it is Dominican NOLA Fest. We're going to New Orleans. We're going to support Fermin. We're going to go and dance and eat some good food and learn about the Dominican Republic culture and music and history.

It's at the New Orleans jazz museum. And the workshops will start at 12 p.m. until 4 p.m. And then the gala will be at 6 p.m. Please, come and join and support.

Pepper Roussel: Thank you! Yes, please. So y'all remember for the mean, he came a couple weeks ago. He was talking to us about not only his work, but his music and he shared that he's going to be doing this.

This is the thing. Also, Marcella, it's a November 13. You said, I remember it ends at midnight because I'm going to need a nap.

Marcela Hernandez: So our gala is going to be on November the 11th, but tomorrow is Dominican NOLA fest.

Casey Phillips: Gorgeous. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Marcella. It's the by the way, people were staying in yeah, everybody's in tomorrow.

The Lebanese festival is tomorrow from 11 to 8 at Romans. I'm sorry, sir. Ops on corporate. Just as a heads up, if anybody's interested.

Pepper Roussel: Very good. Very good. All right. Manny's going to miss the Laurie Gala, but that's okay. We'll see him for something else. I'm sure. All right. Any what else is going on Baton Rouge this weekend, y'all? I see a note in the chat. Go vote after you voted. Go vote some more. Go party with the Dominicans after you have voted.

Vote. Lord. Yes. Go vote. It is important.

All right. That being said, thank you all for spending part of your Friday with us. I really super duper appreciate it. Karen, don't be surprised when we come knocking on your door and don't act like you don't know me. We will be hitting you up to try to find out more about how it is that we can make this Cats on Demand situation somewhat better.

And since Tina's here and was privy to the conversation, we will get her to cozy up to Shree. Talk a little bit more about what we can do from a co chair perspective as we guide Transportation Mobility Coalition through Q4 and Q1 2024. So that said, have a great weekend y'all and we'll see y'all back here next week.

Same bat time, same bat channel.


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