(One, in a continuing series of posts from PRIDE Industries Foundation Development Director, Tricia Ciampa)
One thing working at PRIDE Industries Foundation has taught me is that there are a great many things in life I take for granted. I am able-bodied. I can speak and hear and see. Because of this, so many other things are possible for me.
One of the seemingly simple things that I take for granted is the fact that I have a car, and I have the ability to drive it. This gives me tremendous freedom – I can go wherever I want, whenever I want. If I want a chocolate milkshake at 1 AM, I can hop in my car and make a quick trip through a drive-thru. If I want to go see a friend who is living in another city, I can drive out for a visit. And when I was looking for a job, I didn’t have to consider the public transportation routes in deciding where to apply.
Through my work with PRIDE Industries, I have learned that this same freedom isn’t available to a great many people with disabilities. Many of the individuals with disabilities PRIDE employs aren’t able to drive. They must depend on others – whether friends, family, or public transit – to get them where they need to go. This can be very limiting. As simple a thing as transportation is, it can often be the barrier that stands between an individual with a disability and employment.
As a leading nonprofit employer of people with disabilities, PRIDE Industries works to remove the barrier of transportation by providing transit services to approximately 1,500 people with disabilities every day. In fact, a lot of you that live in the greater Sacramento and Los Angeles areas have probably seen our PRIDE vans as they make their way through town.
Transportation can be life changing for people like John (name changed to protect his privacy). John has a seizure disorder that keeps him from getting a Driver’s License. He’s worked for PRIDE for 2 years, taking the PRIDE bus to and from work every day. John’s family told PRIDE that John’s job has given him a sense of purpose, and that he absolutely loves coming to work. His commitment to his job shows – during his time with PRIDE, John has worked to learn additional carpentry skills that led to his recent promotion.
One of my current projects at PRIDE Industries Foundation is to look for funding that will allow PRIDE to expand transportation services, assisting individuals with disabilities like John get to, and from, jobs with PRIDE at our sites throughout the country. By ensuring transportation needs are met, we can increase employment of people with disabilities at PRIDE.
So from now on, when I’m driving home from work and the traffic is a mess, I’m going to strive to remember how lucky I am to have a car that I can drive to and from work (and on the occasional late night milkshake run).